Developers to Recreate ArriveCAN Over Weekend, to Prove Feds Wasted $54 Million

The federal government finally put the ArriveCAN app (or, at least its mandated use) to rest on October 1 after months of outcry from the travel industry, border officials, and the Canadian masses over a decline in tourism and airport delays.

A Friday report indicated that Canadian tech industry leaders are largely appalled by ArriveCAN’s $54 million price tag, with some saying that taxpayers “got fleeced.”

Not only did the government spend more than double its original budget for ArriveCAN, but it also used 23 separate contractors (in addition to additional, unnamed subcontractors) to develop the app instead of just sticking to a single app developer.

Two Canadian tech companies that specialize in building apps for corporate clients, TribalScale and Lazer Technologies, are planning to hold internal hackathons to demonstrate that the ArriveCAN app could have been built for a fraction of the $54 million the Liberals spent on it, and several other firms have expressed interest in joining them — reports The Globe and Mail.

TribalScale CEO Sheetal Jaitly said he and his employees came up with the idea when they were discussing how much Canada paid for ArriveCAN during a video meeting on Friday morning. One staff member figured he could build ArriveCAN in two days.

“We all started laughing and one started feeding off the other. ‘Hey, why don’t we just go do this and show the world that this is completely ridiculous?'” he said about the staff discussion. Shortly after, Jaitly announced plans to rebuild ArriveCAN over the weekend.

Lazer Technologies co-founder Zain Manji told The Globe and Mail on Friday that his team is also launching a similar hackathon.

“It’s voluntary by us and over the weekend – like a hackathon project,” he told the publication. “Purely to show that, professionally speaking, an app like this should not cost as much as it did, and for the government to please consider other avenues or do more due diligence in the future.”

Manji and Jaitly have also talked over the phone about coordinating their efforts. Both hackathons are strictly voluntary for their employees, and both companies plan for their work to be open source and publicly accessible for free.

According to Jaitly, other Canadian tech leaders have reached out to him about possibly collaborating on the project.

“I think the [Canadian technology] ecosystem is taking a look at this and saying ‘Hey, we can run this as an open source project,'” he said. “Team up together, community driven, and say, ‘Hey, government, stop wasting our money.”

While the government no longer requires travellers to submit vaccination and other health information through ArriveCAN, the app lives on as a voluntary customs and immigration tool.