The government is looking to utilise a location app for tracing people who have come into contact with someone carrying coronavirus. Such contact-tracing is vital for controlling the spread of the virus and (if there are appropriate privacy safeguards) an app may be of great use in this process, but not everyone will have the choice to use this service. Those without smart phones and data, or who don’t have the digital literacy to use such an app are at risk of being missed in contact tracing, potentially putting them – and the community – at greater risk.
This is not the first time the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the digital divide in Australia: the most obvious example being moving schools online when many children and households simply don’t have the technology to access that education.
Digital exclusion replicates other areas of socio-economic disadvantage with those who are older, have less education or lower incomes likely to have lower levels of digital access and literacy.
This needs to be considered in our coronavirus response – and digital inclusion must be part of our post-virus rebuild so we are better prepared for the future, whether that is another crisis or a prosperous digital economy.
This was first published as a Letter to the Editor, The Advertiser, 16 April 2020.