What have the Government learnt from Isle of Wight Contact Tracing App? Minister gives at least a partial answer

Questions were asked about the Isle of Wight Contact App trial in the House of Lords last night, giving us an insight into some of what they have learnt

House of lords

Last night in the House of Lords it was revealed by Lord Bethell, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care, that the Government’s Test, Track and Trace programme will be led with a tracing programme rather than the Covid-19 App.

It’s been two weeks since the App was rolled out on the Isle of Wight. In that time the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases have risen from 146 to 178.

Concerns over privacy have been debated by the Ethics Advisory Board and debated widely in the press and locally Vix Lowthion wrote to the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock and the Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely to ask them to share the specific objectives and success criteria for the App. No reply has been received, she says.

Health Minister: Mistake to launch App before public used to tracing
Last night (Tuesday) in the House of Lords, Baroness Jenny Jones of Mouslecoomb (Green Party) asked:

“My colleague on the Isle of Wight, Vix Lowthion, tells me that the public there are not clear about the aims and objectives of the trial they are taking part in. Can the Minister tell me now what are the criteria for success of the Isle of Wight trial?”

The Health Minister, Lord Bethell, replied,

“One of the criteria of success is to learn from the pilot, which takes an early version of the app and hopes to develop learnings from it; we now have two or three. One of them, which I have mentioned, is that it is probably a mistake to launch an app before you have got the public used to the idea of tracing. As I mentioned in an earlier answer, that is something we have taken on board.

“When it comes to launching the test and tracing programme, we will begin with the tracing, not with the App.”

Lowthion: Technology cannot protect us by itself
Vix Lowthion, IW Green Party spokesperson responded,

“I welcome this admission by the Government that it was a ‘mistake to launch the App’ before thorough, localised, manual tracing was in place.

“Technology can offer us an effective tool to identify where the virus is in the coming months, but it cannot protect us by itself. The Government was wrong to begin to ease lockdown on the Isle of Wight at the same time as introducing an App – but before the public had been regularly involved with a local test and tracing programme. “

Harman: Privacy law needed
Yesterday the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriet Harman, also said she was “at a loss” as to why ministers had so far failed to bring a Bill forward to the Commons addressing concerns over privacy.

She told the press that the contact tracing App required a “bespoke” piece of legislation.

Lowthion: Stay at home
Vix Lowthion added,

“I urge Islanders to continue to stay at home if they can, as the numbers of positive Coronavirus tests are increasing on the Isle of Wight. 

“It is good that Government have recognised the need for manual contract tracing to be embedded in local communities before the App is rolled out. Now they must take action regarding the privacy concerns, to build trust with the wider public so we can tackle the challenges together.”

For full details of the learning from the App trial – see Ian Levy’s blog post on the National Cyber Security Centre Website.

Coronavirus Contact Tracing App
The NHSX Coronavirus Contact Tracing App was launched on the Isle of Wight in the first week of May 2020. The App is the first phase of the new ‘test, track and trace’ programme, aimed at reducing the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).

To download the App follow this link in your phone’s Web browser

Background reading
Coronavirus Contact Tracing App on the Isle of Wight: What you need to know | FAQ: NHSX Coronavirus Contact Tracing App | How to setup and use NHSX Coronavirus Contact Tracing App | In-depth explanation of how it works is available |Podcast with IW Council leader pitching the Island for the pilot

Article edit
11am 20th May 2020 – Link to Levy blog added
6pm 20th May 2020 – Restored original headline after content system swapped it (Grrr)

Image: herry under CC BY 2.0

Wednesday, 20th May, 2020 10:00am


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Filed under: Health, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Top story

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10 Comments on "What have the Government learnt from Isle of Wight Contact Tracing App? Minister gives at least a partial answer"

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Clearly the App in it’s current form is not adequate. There is apparently a lot more work needing doing. There is also so little official feedback so can only assume that the App fails to do what it says on the tin. Bob Seeley can promote it as much as he likes but the information is out there that it isn’t yet fit for national roll out.… Read more »

Lots more work to do on the tracing too….. already big problems training staff etc. Personally don’t have a lot of faith in companies like Serco – google Serco Probation to see the sorry history of failing the task, fraudulent use of taxpayer funds, then they get handed a few million more !

There were many of us who held off from the trial for a number of reasons, and got negative comments for doing so! Those who felt the need to try and shame us into using it might like to rethink their stance again. From day one it was obvious that the data ‘collected’ was going not to our phones and never anywhere else, but instead it was… Read more »
Rhos yr Alarch

Whilst it’s useful to know that a traditional tracking approach is felt to be more central than having an app, the answer does not seem to give any detail about how the app trail itself has been going…. or am I missing something?


I hear on the grapevine there are lots of T shirts selling cheaply, Lol



Better change the slogan, ‘the IW leads where the Country follows’

Rhos yr Alarch

There still appears to be no further update about this…. or have I missed something?


I disagree with Viv’s comments that it was a mistake to launch the app. If the government and scientists have learnt from it, it has been a success. I am sure an improved version will be rolled out soon enough.

Vix Lowthion

Please reread the quote above:

“I welcome this admission by the Government that it was a ‘mistake to launch the App’ before thorough, localised, manual tracing was in place.”


Apologies Viv. I mistakenly said the comments were yours Just saying I think the trial was worth doing because it has informed the government in what it needs to do next and how it should improve