Almost $40,000 for a small business iPad app: Coalition says it’s a waste but developer says price is right

The Federal Opposition has slammed a small business iPad app as “more Gillard Labor government waste”, after it was revealed the app cost $37,950. But an independent app developer says that’s a reasonable price to pay for an app.

The small business iPad app, called ‘MyBizShield’, had only been downloaded 690 times in six months, prompting shadow small business minister Bruce Billson to issue a press release decrying the “glorified PDFs in the form of an app”.

“Given small business hasn’t been given any meaningful information about how the carbon tax is hitting them, a better use of taxpayers’ money would be to develop an app that explains the impact of the carbon tax on their operating costs and how to lawfully deal with passing on the tax,” Billson said.

“Instead, we have a $40,000 app that has been downloaded less than 700 times, which to me represents poor value for money.

“Only one in every 3,900 small businesses has downloaded the app, whereas every small business has been hit by the carbon tax.”

SmartCompany contacted the government for comment but no response was available prior to publication. 

However, Marc Edwards, director and lead designer of independent app developer Bjango, told SmartCompany the $37,950 price tag was “quite reasonable”.

“In the grand scheme of things, for a government project it seems quite reasonable. In comparison to other government projects, it is not too over budget,” Edwards says.

“Usually IOS development is more complex than web development because generally it is written in more complex language, HTC rather than HTML and Data Script, so it is a more difficult process.”

Edwards concedes the MyBizShield app appears to be quite straightforward, comprising a number of different forms that businesses can fill out, but he says apps can sometimes be deceptively simple looking.

“Some of these things can be like icebergs, they look very simple but they have massive infrastructure underneath,” he says.

Edwards says the “obviously disappointing” number of downloads is likely to be a result of a poor marketing budget rather than a reflection of the app’s quality.

“Apps are very much like websites, if you release it you can’t expect anyone to download it unless you have some marketing that corresponds to the app launch,” he says.
“If they didn’t market it much, then 700 in total sounds normal for an app to enter the app graveyard.”

While the MyBizShield app may be attracting criticism from the Coalition, Edwards says it’s a step in the right direction that the government is actually building iPad apps.

“It’s good to see the government on new and emerging platforms, I think that’s positive.

“The Australian Tax Office has copped a bit of flak recently for only supporting Windows. If the government is building iPad apps, maybe there will be an e-tax iPad app sometime soon.” 

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