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SafeKey plan bankrolled by Government fintech adviser’s private firm

Denis Pitcher

The man behind the programme designed to allow larger gatherings and help restart tourism has moved to ease concerns over the scheme.

Denis Pitcher, the Government’s fintech adviser, who created the programme free of charge, said he was inspired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology work on paper verifiable credentials when he was asked to create an online form to prove vaccination status.

Mr Pitcher added the MIT programme was “a simple and elegant solution”.

He said: “I offered to add it to the certificates at no cost and suggested it could be used to launch a SafeKey style solution – the SafeKey being particularly appealing because it would help get our tourism clients back in business and hopefully running at full capacity.”

Mr Pitcher explained his technology company, resPartner, had been involved in booking technology for most of the tourism activities on the island.

He said: “We know our customers are struggling and many will go bankrupt if they miss a second whole season.”

Mr Pitcher added it was “hard enough surviving the winters” for the tourism industry.

He said: “Losing a whole year and then the prospect of another peak season is unthinkable. SafeKey is important to us as a company for that.”

Mr Pitcher emphasised he had “taken a step back” from his salaried role with Government to help out the team at resPartner.

He said: “I also ended up developing the verify.gov.bm solution and offering it at no cost as well.”

He added he had open sourced the work so others could use it to create their own verifier app.

Mr Pitcher said: “We were already asked to develop the PDF vaccine certificates and we didn’t charge for the tech implementation of the verifiable quick response codes and the verifier app.”

He added New York had spent $2.5 million on a similar programme developed by global tech giant IBM.

Mr Pitcher said that “considering we didn’t charge for it and I haven’t been paid any money for fintech while developing it, I think it’s more than reasonable”.

Mr Pitcher, writing on Facebook, added the work needed to upgrade the resQwest coronavirus test scheduling, travel authorisation and vaccine programme and create PDFs “similar to what we’ve done for the PCR negative test results” was considerable.

He explained: “This was a very big project because the data behind vaccines was very fragmented.

“We didn’t originally handle vaccine registrations and roll-out and, unfortunately, multiple systems were used.

“We were asked to take it over after a couple of months and help clean the data and prepare it for these certificates.”

Mr Pitcher said: “My team was fairly overwhelmed dealing with support during the outbreak in parallel.

“Typically, I have not been very involved in resQwest aside from some deep technical support and resQwest has not billed for any hours I’ve contributed while I’ve been on my fintech contract.”

He added that it was “my company, of which I’m a part owner, who’s driving this, not me directly and it’s been a long and challenging road … a large chunk of which we didn’t have a contract for and I bankrolled a large chunk of our expenses from savings”.