Police released a smartphone app that makes it easier to report an emergency or not-so-urgent problem, and to receive alerts or check if a vehicle is stolen.
In response to an Official Information Act request
lodged by the Herald, police chief information officer superintendent Rob Cochrane said:
"The development of the police app was part of a wider programme that included a refresh of the police website. Based on the time and resource effort committed to the police app, the development cost was approximately $150,000."
The police app was developed by Christchurch-based Smudge, the police's long-term partner for building and deploying internal apps.
Was $150,000 good value for money?
Tech industry veteran Rowan Schaaf, these days director of Wellington digital consultancy Pattern, was not sure it did.
"On the assumption that the news feed, and the reporting functions already worked on the police website [they did] and the app was just a new touch point then, no, $150,000 doesn't represent good value for money based on what you can see in the app."
Schaaf allowed there could be mitigating circumstances, including work done on future capability, and integration with other police systems.
Smudge managing director Reuben Bijl did not want to speak directly to Schaaf's points, deferring to the police to pick up the baton, but did offer the general observation that, in his opinion, a solid testing regime was important. An app had to make a good first-impression or it would be hard for it to get repeat use or good word-of-mouth. Bijl noted the bad first-impression many got from the Ministry of Health's NZ Covid Tracer app, which was light on features and hairy in its performance on its initial release.
In the Herald's experience, the police app was a solid, user-friendly performance from the get-go. If you want to snitch on your lockdown-dodging neighbour, but the 105 line is dodged, it makes a good alternative. Ditto if you want to run a rego check on that car that's been dumped over the road.
For the police, spokeswoman Kelly Mitchell confirmed there was more to the project than the features immediately obvious in the app.
"Costs to create the app included design, development and testing, website enhancements to ensure integration between the police website and the new app and security testing of the app," Mitchell said.
In that context, IT Professionals NZ head Paul Matthews said the app seemed good value.
"On the face of it, $150,000 would appear to be reasonable for a complex app that is integrated into the police's core systems, especially when you factor in the whole process – requirements analysis, design, development, user testing and security testing."
Since the launch in January 2020 there have been 58,600 downloads of the police app.
"An update to the app to improve the user experience and access to police services is planned in the coming months. Updates are based on user feedback to ensure we are delivering an engaging and informative app experience," Mitchell said.
What should a mobile app cost?
This question is a bit like "how long is a piece of string", given the number of variables over features, how much planning, designing and testing you're willing to allow for, and the lengths you're willing to go to ensure it works on different makes and models of smartphone.
But as a broad indicator, Wellington's Pattern offers:
• Standalone e.g. calculator, voice recorder, camera (saving to phone only): < $50,000
• Simple data consumption stockmarket updates, web-browser: $30,000 to $100,000
• User account required e.g. simple email, news applications: $75,000 to $250,000
• Social networking e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Tinder: $150,000 to $500,000
• Ecommerce e.g. Amazon: $200,000 to $1,000,000
• On-demand e.g. Uber, TaskRabbit: $100,000 to $1,500,000
• Two-sided marketplace e.g. Trademe: $200,000 to $1,500,000