SA govt to axe 'Alert SA' app after fresh failure

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SA govt to axe 'Alert SA' app after fresh failure

Outages on days with dangerous bushfire conditions.

The South Australian government will axe a smartphone app used to warn people about emergencies after it suffered a second major failure in three months.

Emergency services minister Chris Picton said that the government “will not renew the contract” with Victorian firm Ripe Intelligence for the ‘Alert SA’ app.

The contract - reported to be worth $250,000 a year - expires in June, Picton said.

Picton said the government would seek legal advice “to investigate how to best protect the taxpayer” from any financial fallout from the axing of the arrangement.

He said that the government “will now work on a new mobile solution that will be controlled by emergency services and be focused on robustness”.

The government was forced to act after the Alert SA app failed twice on days that experienced catastrophic bushfire conditions.

In late October, the app was down for about five hours while 43 bushfires raged in the first major outbreak of the 2017-18 fire season.

Picton at the time promised to pursue a fix “so this issue does not happen again”. He said "appropriate" remedies to the app were undertaken, which were "independently verified" by Ernst & Young.

But months later, as temperatures in South Australia soared on Saturday due to heatwave conditions and sparked concern about fresh fires, the app again fell over.

“Alert SA app users may be experiencing periods where information display and notifications are not working,” the government advised on Saturday afternoon.

“The Alert SA service provider is currently investigating these issues as a critical priority.”

It was enough for the government to pull the pin.

Picton said in a statement that “emergency services will no longer be supporting the use of the Alert SA app as a method of providing public notifications about emergency incidents”.

“On a day of catastrophic fire danger in a number of districts around the state, the Alert SA app … failed to provide updates on bushfire information,” he said.

He alleged that the app provider, Ripe Intelligence, could not provide “adequate assurance … that another failure would not happen in the future”, leading to the call to terminate the arrangement.

Alert SA was launched in mid-2015 as a one stop website and app containing “real-time alerts about emergency situations – as well as day-to-day disruptions such as roadworks.”

It was designed to surface information about everything “from fires, floods, storms to power outages, school closures and traffic and transport disruptions.”

“[It] brings together information from up to 14 organisations, including emergency service agencies, government departments and other organisations such as the Bureau of Meteorology and SA Power Networks,” the government said at the time.

“Information that has previously been available from a variety of sources will now be at your fingertips and personalised based on where you live and the places you visit.”

Consolidating alerts from a number of agencies into the one place meant that previously-working apps run by emergency services - for example, the Country Fire Service - were not updated and discontinued.

With emergency services now retaking control of alerting apps, some form of these previous apps will now need to be revived.

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