IT chief government defends controversial choice for tracking app


Frank Robben, the CEO of the IT government vehicle Smals, indicates that the choice of the unknown app builder Devside costs much less than the base price of 4 million that a rival consortium asked for a corona tracking app.

But Frank Robben, the IT manager of government projects like the eHealth platform, defends the choice for the Devside consortium in a blog post. Robben points out that 20 large and small companies and consortia were contacted, but only 4 tenders were submitted: 2 for the development of the app and 2 for the security audit.

Frank Robben, the CEO of the federal government’s eHealth platform.
©Tim Dirven

“Obviously we would have preferred more offers,” says Robben. But he emphasizes that the tenders were judged by a jury of 3 professors.

The government’s ICT boss also points out that Devside not only works, but that the winning consortium consists of several companies, including the Mechelen-based software company Ixor and universities (including ULB and VUB). Those parties have introduced people with solid experience.


Robben makes no statement about the price of the winning offer. He does refer to the cost of the Irish tracking app, which is 850,000 euros. The Belgian media previously published amounts of 750,000 to 1 million euros, but other sources speak of an even lower amount than that of the Irish app.

€ 4 million

Competitive consortium
The consortium with SAP asked for a copy of the existing German app and without the necessary Belgian adjustments alone a basic price of more than 4 million euros.

Robben does indicate that the competing proposal from the consortium with SAP was much more expensive. There it was proposed to make a copy of the German-developed app developed by SAP at a basic cost of more than 4 million euros. The adjustments that are specifically needed for the Belgian situation would come above that. “That would probably have led to other criticisms,” Robben delicately remarks.

Devside will also work with the source code of the German app, which is freely available. However, many specific adjustments are required to comply with the Belgian specifications of Smal, the government’s IT service providers.

The app should in principle be launched on September 1, but that date is doubted. “I’ve always said you need eight to nine weeks. I see the launch happening earlier in mid-September or in the third week of that month, ‘said project leader Bart Preneel, the Leuven professor and encryption specialist, earlier.

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