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T.O.-based tech company holds “hackathon” to rebuild ArriveCAN

  • Buzz
  •   10-11-2022  4:45 am
  •   Pax Global Media

T.O.-based tech company holds “hackathon” to rebuild ArriveCAN
A T.O.-based tech company has rebuilt Canada's ArriveCAN app. (File photo)
Pax Global Media

A Toronto-based technology company held a voluntary “hackathon” over the weekend to rebuild Canada’s now-optional ArriveCAN app.

The event unfolded on the heels of a Globe and Mail report that revealed that federal spending on the tool used for uploading health information prior to entering Canada is expected to reach in excess of $54 million.

TribalScale, a digital innovation lab in Toronto, says that top players in Canada’s tech industry were “taken back” by the developments costs of ArriveCAN.

And so, it’s developers took the app into their own hands and redesigned it with new efficiencies and features.

READ MORE: Spending on ArriveCAN projected to top $54M – double what Ottawa originally stated

"Our team wanted to use this as an opportunity for change,” Sheetal Jaitly, CEO of TribalScale, said in a press release on Monday (Oct. 10). “The goal of this was to show how smart and talented the Canadian tech community is and offer up a new resource to help with the procurement of technology services for the Canadian government."

Hack away

TribalScale completed its hackathon on Oct. 10, and after two days of work, the team says it was able to "recreate the ArriveCAN app."

The company will be releasing a demo Tuesday afternoon but has, in the meantime, shared a preview of the enhancements and features it implemented, including: 

  • Sign-up flow
  • Created ability to add travel documents
  • Created ability to add additional traveler profiles to accounts
  • Ability to save travelers' details for future trips
  • Ability to complete declaration forms (approximately a dozen questions)
  • Ability to input trip information; integration with API for list of airport options
  • Created placeholder to scan Passport or PR Card to add traveler details
  • List of linked traveler resources

TribalScale says it also in the midst of forming a “Canadian Technology Consortium.”

"We are forming this consortium of leaders in digital to be a free advisory resource for the Canadian government at all levels across the country on any digital questions now or in the future. Let's bring capital efficiency and productivity to our digital ecosystem within the government. We are encouraging leaders from the Canadian tech community to apply now," said Jaitly. 

The first meeting of this consortium will take place this Friday, Oct. 14, at 7:45 a.m.

"We envision this resource to be a long-term solution to support for all levels of Canadian government. TribalScale's mission statement is Right The Future and this is another way we can help do just that,” Jaitly said.

Transparency concerns

The initiative comes amid transparency concerns related to the federal government’s outsourcing tactics.

In analyzing its ArriveCAN contracts, the Globe and Mail found that the company that received the most work on the app, GCstrategies, is an Ottawa-based firm with fewer than five employees that relies heavily on dozens of subcontractors.

The government and the company are saying they cannot reveal the names of the subcontractors for confidentiality reasons.

This contradicts information shared by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in recent weeks related to the number of companies that have been contracted to work on ArriveCAN.

READ MORE: Feds lift border vaccine mandates; ArriveCAN & masks optional as of Oct. 1

During the summer, the CBSA submitted documents in Parliament that list 27 contracts involving 23 unique companies.

The issue raises the question of why Ottawa did not turn directly to a Canadian developer rather separate contractors and an unknown number of additional subcontractors.

When it was a mandatory requirement for entry into Canada, ArriveCAN faced heightened criticism from border communities, tourism groups, travel agent advocates and select MPs who argued the platform has hindering the recovery of Canada’s travel industry.

Since early September, the Canadian government has been promoting ArriveCAN’s effectiveness, revealing upgrades to the app, such as the optional “Advance CBSA Declaration” feature.

This allows travellers to answer customs and immigration questions up to 72 hours in advance of flying into Canada.

While ArriveCAN is no longer mandatory as of Sept. 30, it will continue to exist as a voluntary option.

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