Phone wet and won’t turn on? Here’s how to deal with water damage (hint: soaking it in rice won’t work)


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Ritesh Chugh, CQUniversity AustraliaIf you’ve ever gotten your phone wet in the rain, dropped it in water or spilt liquid over it, you’re not alone. One study suggests 25% of smartphone users have damaged their smartphone with water or some other kind of liquid.

Liquid penetrating a smartphone can affect the device in several ways. It could lead to:

  • blurry photos, if moisture gets trapped in the camera lens
  • muffled audio, or no audio
  • liquid droplets under the screen
  • an inability to charge
  • the rusting of internal parts, or
  • a total end to all functionality.

While new phones are advertised as “water resistant”, this doesn’t mean they are waterproof, or totally immune to water. Water resistance just implies the device can handle some exposure to water before substantial damage occurs.

Samsung Australia has long-defended itself against claims it misrepresents the water resistance of its smartphones.

In 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took Samsung to Federal Court, alleging false and misleading advertisements had led customers to believe their Galaxy phones would be suitable for:

use in, or exposure to, all types of water (including, for example, oceans and swimming pools).

Samsung Australia subsequently denied warranty claims from customers for damage caused to phones by use in, or exposure to, liquid.

Similarly, last year Apple was fined €10 million (about A$15.5 million) by Italy’s antitrust authority for misleading claims about the water resistance of its phones, and for not covering liquid damage under warranty, despite these claims.

How resistant is your phone?

The water resistance of phones is rated by an “Ingress Protection” code, commonly called an IP rating. Simply, an electrical device’s IP rating refers to its effectiveness against intrusions from solids and liquids.

The rating includes two numbers. The first demonstrates protection against solids such as dust, while the second indicates resistance to liquids, specifically water.

Here are the various Ingress Protection ratings. The numbering changes based on the level of protection.
Element Materials Technology

A phone that has a rating of IP68 has a solid object protection of 6 (full protection from dust, dirt and sand) and a liquid protection of 8 (protected from immersion in water to a depth of more than one metre).

Although, for the latter, manufacturers are responsible for defining the exact depth and time.

The popular iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21 phones both have a rating of IP68. However, regarding exposure to water, the iPhone 12 has a permissible immersion depth of a maximum of 6m for 30 minutes, whereas the Galaxy 21’s immersion limit is up to 1.5m, also for 30 minutes.

While IP ratings indicate the water-repellent nature of phones, taking most phones for a swim will land you in deep trouble. The salt content in oceans and swimming pools can corrode your device and cost you a hefty replacement.

Moreover, phone manufacturers carry out their IP testing in fresh water and Apple recommends devices not be submerged in liquids of any kind.

Luckily, water resistant phones are generally able to survive smaller liquid volumes, such as from a glass tipping over.




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Checking for liquid damage

Exposure to water is something manufacturers have in mind when designing phones. Most Apple and Samsung phones come with a liquid contact/damage indicator strip located inside the SIM card tray.

This is used to check for liquid damage that may be causing a device to malfunction. An indicator strip that comes in contact with liquid loses its usual colour and becomes discoloured and smudgy.

Samsung and Apple phones have Liquid Contact/Damage Indicators.
Samsung/Apple

A discoloured strip usually renders your phone ineligible for a standard manufacturer warranty.

If you have any of the more recent smartphones from Apple or Samsung, then your device will be able to detect liquid or moisture in its charging port and will warn you with an alert. This notification only goes away once the port is dry.

New generation Samsung and Apple phones have a moisture/liquid alert notification.
Samsung/Apple

But what should you do if this dreadful pop-up presents itself?

Fixing a water-logged phone

Firstly, do not put your phone in a container of rice. It’s a myth that rice helps in drying out your phone. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the device immediately and don’t press any buttons.
  2. If your phone is water resistant and you’ve spilt or submerged it in a liquid other than water, both Apple and Samsung recommend rinsing it off by submerging it in still tap water (but not under a running tap, which could cause damage).
  3. Wipe the phone dry with paper towels or a soft cloth.
  4. Gently shake the device to remove water from the charging ports,
    but avoid vigorous shaking as this could further spread the liquid inside.
  5. Remove the SIM card.
  6. Use a compressed aerosol air duster to blow the water out if you have one. Avoid using a hot blow dryer as the heat can wreck the rubber seals and damage the screen.
  7. Dry out the phone (and especially the ports) in front of a fan.
  8. Leave your phone in an airtight container full of silica gel packets (those small packets you get inside new shoes and bags), or another drying agent. These help absorb the moisture.
  9. Do not charge the phone until you are certain it’s dry. Charging a device with liquid still inside it, or in the ports, can cause further damage. Apple suggests waiting at least five hours once a phone appears dry before charging it (or until the alert disappears).

If the above steps don’t help and you’re still stuck with a seemingly dead device, don’t try opening the phone yourself. You’re better off taking it to a professional.




Read more:
Upgrade rage: why you may have to buy a new device whether you want to or not


The Conversation


Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer – Information Systems and Analysis, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Upgrade rage: why you may have to buy a new device whether you want to or not



The Conversation, CC BY

Michael Cowling, CQUniversity Australia

We’ve probably all been there. We buy some new smart gadget and when we plug it in for the first time it requires an update to work.

So we end up spending hours downloading and updating before we can even play with our new toy.

But what happens when we can’t update our gadgets any further?

Vintage technology

Every year vendors such as Apple and Google add to their list of vintage devices that no longer get operating system or security updates.

For example, owners of the Pixel 2 smartphone (released by Google in 2017) were told in late 2020 they would no longer receive regular scheduled system updates and security updates.

Upgrading to Google’s newest smartphones won’t insulate them from this problem for long. Owners of the latest Pixel 5 are told to expect this device (released in October 2020) to be made vintage in 2023.




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While Apple has a reputation for supporting devices for longer than Google and Samsung with Android, even Apple owners are occasionally in for a shock, such as those users who bought the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch 3 late last year only to discover it only works with an iPhone 6s or above.

A frustrated comment from a user on a support group about incompatible Apple technology.
When technology doesn’t communicate.
Screenshot/Apple.com

Even if an operating system vendor still supports a device, this presumes the apps and network connections will still work for older devices, which is not always the case.

The unrelenting march of technology

Technology is not what it used to be. Twenty years ago, we could buy a laptop and everything would work pretty much the same for over a decade.

For example, switch on an old Windows XP machine (no longer supported by Microsoft) and any installed Word and Excel software will be there just as we left them, still available for your document and spreadsheeting needs. (We need to be careful about updating any software as then it might not work on the XP machine.)

If we want to play some old computer games, there’s an argument that an old machine or operating system will be a better choice to play on as a newer machine will run the game too fast, or be incompatible and not run it at all.

Gaming on a 25 year old laptop.

But the world of technology has changed in the last ten years or so. More and more apps need a network connection to operate, or take advantage of new features in the software or hardware that didn’t previously exist such as augmented reality (AR), so they need a new device to work.

Cables, chips and wireless networks

Even on the hardware front, there are concerns. Try and attach our old fitness band to our new smartphone and we might find the Bluetooth protocol it uses to communicate is no longer supported, or the servers they used to run were attacked and taken down by hackers.

Backers of the original smartwatch, The Pebble, found themselves on the wrong end of this situation when the company was bought by Fitbit, who decided to shut down the Pebble servers. This effectively turned all Pebble watches into paperweights, although an unofficial fix was developed.

The smartwatch in a box.
The original Pebble smartwatch.
Wikimedia/Romazur, CC BY-SA

Assuming the hardware works, we might find the network connection deserts us.

The WiFi Alliance last year announced a new WiFi standard, increasing speeds for countries that support it.

But it’s already the case that older WiFi devices running on older standards can have trouble connecting to new networks, and even if they can they are likely to slow down the whole network.

In the world of cellular networking, some parts of the old 3G network (famous for powering the iPhone 3G released a little more than ten years ago) has been shut down in some countries (including Australia), with the whole service destined for the dustbin in several years. Even if we could power up that old iPhone, it wouldn’t get any phone service.

A call for sustainable technology

So what’s the solution to this problem of disposable and expiring technology? One suggestion is that manufacturers move to making devices more modular, comprised of several detachable components.

Components could then be replaced as they expire, just like we are able to do with desktop computers by replacing the video card, sound card or other components.

Some manufacturers, such as Essential, Motorola and Google have all tried this approach with a modular phone but with limited success.

The modularisation process results in a larger, more cumbersome device in a world where thin and svelte is everything.




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Perhaps the best we can hope for is for manufacturers to work harder to recycle and upgrade devices for consumers. Companies such as Apple already do this, with machines that can disassemble iPhones and remove the precious metals and components for recycling, but more work needs to be done.

Daisy, Apple’s new iPhone disassembly robot.

In particular, the commercial aspect of these initiatives likely still needs to be worked out. Some service providers offer trade-in in deals for old phones but you still have to pay for a new phone. Many people aim to use older devices to avoid paying for a new device after all.

Until manufacturers are willing to perhaps just do a straight swap of that old gadget for a new model with no money down, it’s likely we will still live in our expiring device culture for a while yet.The Conversation

Michael Cowling, Associate Professor – Information & Communication Technology (ICT), CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Has COVID cost friendships? Technology may have helped people stay connected during the pandemic



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Shane Rogers, Edith Cowan University

If you leave your car sitting the garage for too long, the battery can go flat. Similarly, if we don’t maintain our friendships, they can go a bit flat too.

So just as it’s good practice to drive your car every so often and have it serviced regularly, friendships are easier to maintain with some semblance of regular contact.

What has this meant for our friendships during 2020, a year of social distancing and lockdowns? My research suggests physical separation wasn’t necessarily associated with psychological separation or the breakdown of friendships.

And that appears to be thanks mostly to communication technologies.

Mental health, friendships and COVID

Consistent with research from other parts of the world, lockdown experiences in Australia have been associated with diminished emotional well-being for many people.

My colleague Travis Cruickshank and I surveyed 1,599 Australians from various age groups during the national lockdown in April. Our study is still at the preprint stage, which means it hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A substantial proportion of participants reported a deterioration in their mental health due to COVID-19 (10% deteriorated a lot, 44% deteriorated somewhat, 40% reported no change, and 6% improved somewhat).

We also asked how their friendships had been affected, and surprisingly, most respondents reported no change (66%). This was despite 72% noting they were interacting face-to-face with friends a lot less (and a further 14% somewhat less) during the pandemic.




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It’s hard to admit we’re lonely, even to ourselves. Here are the signs and how to manage them


Communication technologies to the rescue

At first glance our results seem strange, as even the best communication technologies are arguably not an adequate substitute for face-to-face interaction. It’s difficult to make eye contact — an important social cue — through a screen. And if you’ve ever tried to catch up with a group of friends over Zoom or a similar platform, you’ll know it can become a little chaotic.

However, 56% of participants in our study reported spending more time interacting with friends using technology during the pandemic (for example, phone, email, or online chat). So it seems most people used communication technologies to stay connected with their friends during lockdown — even if it wasn’t quite the same as catching up in person.

A group of young people socialising in someone's home.
Technology can’t entirely replicate the benefits of socialising face-to-face.
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Social media sometimes gets a bad rap. For example, excessive social media use has been associated with negative outcomes such as lower self-esteem and narcissistic tendencies. It can also be a vehicle for spreading misinformation.

However, having a raft of options for communicating digitally, of which social media platforms are a big part, has arguably been a good thing overall.

People have been able to share jokes with a wide audience to keep spirits up. For example, a Facebook group encouraging people to dress up in costumes to take their bins out, and then post pictures, went viral around the world.




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More importantly, people could stay connected with friends and family during a stressful time. We know social support is important for managing anxiety, especially during fraught times.

Our results are consistent with other Australian research and US research which found people didn’t perceive their social support to be negatively affected during the pandemic.

But not everybody made use of technology

In our study, while most people reported no impact on their friendships, 27% of people reported a deterioration in their relationships with friends. These people were more likely to also report not increasing their level of communication via technological means.


Author provided

These people were also more likely to report their mental health had deteriorated.

It’s important to note we collected our data fairly early in the pandemic. So it’s possible more people, particularly those in Victoria who endured a prolonged second lockdown, may have experienced deterioration in their friendships since we collected our data.

But our results highlight the important role communication technologies can play during a pandemic, and the value of using such technologies to maintain relationships and social support, for the benefit of our mental health.

A woman hunched over on the couch at home, appearing lonely or depressed.
Some participants in our study reported their social relationships had deteriorated.
Shutterstock

Interestingly, 7% of people reported an improvement in friendship quality. Perhaps connecting over difficult times brought some people closer. Alternatively, with various communication technologies and apps gaining traction, some people may have started interacting with friends during lockdown who they wouldn’t normally see or speak to.

New communication technologies on the horizon

Video chat platforms (such as Zoom) saw a dramatic increase in use during the pandemic. While serviceable, video chat is still lacking compared with face-to-face interaction.

The pandemic has heightened interest in the development of new digital communication technologies. One prospect is communication in virtual reality (VR).

During the pandemic, a host of start-up companies have appeared selling VR meeting platforms. There was also an increase in usage of social VR programs, although these remain on the fringe.

A current issue with social interaction in VR is that the avatars generally have minimal expression and therefore only represent a shell of a character that transmits your voice. As summed up in this article on The Conversation, “VR technologies perhaps only offer a pale imitation of the multi-sensory experiences of life”.

However, new developments in motion tracking technology and touch-stimulating devices are set to significantly improve the social interaction experience in VR within the next few years.

New VR headsets are in development that include inbuilt facial motion tracking, such as those by Facebook, and also the DecaGear 1. In the coming years, we may be interacting in VR at work and at the weekend with our friends.




Read more:
Why FaceTime can’t replace face-to-face time during social distancing


The Conversation


Shane Rogers, Lecturer in Psychology, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Australia can reap the benefits and dodge the dangers of the Internet of Things



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Kayleen Manwaring, UNSW and Peter Leonard, UNSW

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already all around us. Online devices have become essential in industries from manufacturing and healthcare to agriculture and environmental management, not to mention our own homes. Digital consulting firm Ovum estimates that by 2022 Australian homes will host more than 47 million IoT devices, and the value of the global market will exceed US$1 trillion.

The IoT presents great opportunities, but it brings many risks too. Problems include excessive surveillance, loss of privacy, transparency and control, and reliance on unsafe or unsuitable services or devices.




Read more:
Explainer: the Internet of Things


In some places, such as the European Union, Germany, South Korea and the United Kingdom, governments have been quick to develop policies and some limited regulation to take advantage of the technology and mitigate its harmful impacts.

Australia has been late to react. Even recent moves by the federal government to make IoT devices more secure have been far behind international developments.

A report launched today by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) may help get Australia up to speed. It supplies a wide-ranging, peer-reviewed base of evidence about opportunities, benefits and challenges the IoT presents Australia over the next decade.

Benefits of the Internet of Things

The report examines how we can improve our lives with IoT-related technologies. It explores a range of applications across Australian cities and rural, regional and remote areas.

Some IoT services are already available, such as the Smart Cities and Suburbs program run by local and federal governments. This program funds projects in areas such as traffic congestion, waste management and urban safety.

Health applications are also on the rise. The University of New England has piloted the remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms using IoT-enabled pulse oximeters.

Augmented and virtual reality applications too are becoming more common. IoT devices can track carbon emissions in supply chains and energy use in homes. IoT services can also help governments make public transport infrastructure more efficient.

The benefits of the IoT won’t only be felt in cities. There may be even more to be gained in rural, regional and remote areas. IoT can aid agriculture in many ways, as well as working to prevent and manage bushfires and other environmental disasters. Sophisticated remote learning and health care will also benefit people outside urban areas.

While some benefits of the IoT will be felt everywhere, some will have more impact in cities and others in rural, remote and regional areas.
ACOLA, CC BY-NC

Opportunities for the Australian economy

The IoT presents critical opportunities for economic growth. In 2016-17, IoT activity was already worth A$74.3 billion to the Australian economy.

The IoT can facilitate more data-informed processes and automation (also known as Industry 4.0). This has immediate potential for substantial benefits.

One opportunity for Australia is niche manufacturing. Making bespoke products would be more efficient with IoT capability, which would let Australian businesses reach a consumer market with wide product ranges but low domestic volumes due to our small population.

Agricultural innovation enabled by the IoT, using Australia’s existing capabilities and expertise, is another promising area for investment.




Read more:
Six things every consumer should know about the ‘Internet of Things’


Risks of the Internet of Things

IoT devices can collect huge amounts of sensitive data, and controlling that data and keeping it secure presents significant risks. However, the Australian community is not well informed about these issues and some IoT providers are slow to explain appropriate and safe use of IoT devices and services.

These issues make it difficult for consumers to tell good practice from bad, and do not inspire trust in IoT. Lack of consistent international IoT standards can also make it difficult for different devices to work together, and creates a risk that users will be “locked in” to products from a single supplier.

In IoT systems it can also be very complex to determine who is responsible for any particular fault or issue, because of the many possible combinations of product, hardware, software and services. There will also be many contracts and user agreements, creating contractual complexity that adds to already difficult legal questions.




Read more:
Are your devices spying on you? Australia’s very small step to make the Internet of Things safer


The increased surveillance made possible by the IoT can lead to breaches of human rights. Partially or fully automated decision-making can also to discrimination and other socially unacceptable outcomes.

And while the IoT can assist environmental sustainability, it can also increase environmental costs and impacts. The ACOLA report estimates that by 2050 the IoT could consume between 1 and 5% of the world’s electricity.

Other risks of harmful social consequences include an increased potential for domestic violence, the targeting of children by malicious actors and corporate interests, increased social withdrawal and the exacerbation of existing inequalities for vulnerable populations. The recent death of a woman in rural New South Wales being treated via telehealth provides just one example of these risks.

Maximising the benefits of the IoT

The ACOLA report makes several recommendations for Australia to take advantage of the IoT while minimising its downsides.

ACOLA advocates a national approach, focusing on areas of strength. It recommends continuing investment in smart cities and regions, and more collaboration between industry, government and education.

ACOLA also recommends increased community engagement, better ethical and regulatory frameworks for data and baseline security standards.

The ACOLA report is only a beginning. More specific work needs to be done to make the IoT work for Australia and its citizens.

The report does outline key areas for future research. These include the actual experiences of people in smart cities and homes, the value of data, environmental impacts and the use of connected and autonomous vehicles.The Conversation

Kayleen Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, School of Taxation & Business Law, UNSW and Peter Leonard, Professor of Practice (IT Systems and Management and Business and Taxation Law), UNSW Business School, Sydney, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How creative use of technology may have helped save schooling during the pandemic



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Neil Selwyn, Monash University

It is estimated around half the world’s students’ schools remain shut down. All told, this has been a potentially damaging disruption to the education of a generation.

But one of the few positive outcomes from this experience is an opportunity to rethink how digital technologies can be used to support teaching and learning in schools.

Our collective experiences of remote schooling offer a fleeting opportunity for schools to think more imaginatively about what “digital education” might look like in the future.

This is not to echo the hype (currently being pushed by many education reformers and IT industry actors) that COVID will prove a tipping-point after which schools will be pushed fully into digital education.

On the contrary, the past six months of hastily implemented emergency remote schooling tell us little about how school systems might go fully virtual, or operate on a “blended” (part online, part face-to-face) basis. Any expectations of profiting from the complete digital reform of education is well wide of the mark.

Instead, the most compelling technology-related lessons to take from the pandemic involve the informal, improvised, scrappy digital practices that have helped teachers, students and parents get through school at home.

Technology during the pandemic

All over the world, school shutdowns have seen teachers, students and families get together to achieve great things with relatively simple technologies. This includes the surprising rise of TikTok as a source of informal learning content. Previously the domain of young content creators, remote schooling saw teachers of all ages turn to the video platform to share bite-size (up to one minute) chunks of teaching, give inspirational feedback, set learning challenges or simply show students and parents how they were coping.

TikTok also been used as a place for educational organisations, public figures and celebrity scientists to produce bespoke learning content, as well as allowing teachers to put together materials for a wider audience.

Even principals have used it to keep in contact with their school — making 60-second video addresses, motivational speeches and other alternatives to the traditional school assembly speech.

Classes in some countries have been run through WhatsApp, primarily because this was one platform most students and families had access to, and were used to using in their everyday lives.

Elsewhere, teachers have set up virtual BitMoji classrooms featuring colourful backdrops and cartoon avatars of themselves. These spaces act as a friendly online version of their familiar classroom space for students to check in and find out what they should be learning, access resources and temporarily feel they were back at school.




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Some teachers have worked out creative ways of Zoom-based teaching. These stretch beyond the streamed lecture format and include live demonstrations, experiments, and live music and pottery workshops.

Social media, apps and games have proven convenient places for teachers to share insights into their classroom practice, while students can quickly show teachers and classmates what they have been working on.

These informal uses of digital media have played an important role in boosting students, teachers and parents with a bit of human contact, and additional motivation to connect and learn.

So, what now?

All this will come as little surprise to long-term advocates of popular forms of digital media in education. There is a sound evidence base for the educational benefits of such technology.

For example, a decade’s worth of studies has developed a robust framework (and many examples) of how students and educators can make the most of personal digital media inside and outside the classroom. These include allowing students to participate in online fan-fiction writing communities, digital journalism, music production and podcasting.

The past ten years has also seen a rise in e-sports — where teams of young people compete in video games.

This stresses the interplay between digital media, learning driven by students’ interests and passions, and online communities of peers. Informal digital media can be a boon for otherwise marginalised and disadvantaged youth and allowing students to find supportive communities of like-minded peers regardless of their local circumstances.

Australia continues to be one of the few countries in the world where classroom use of smartphones is banned by some governments. Some of the most popular social media platforms, content creation apps, and open sites such as YouTube remain filtered and blocked in many schools too.




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At the same time, official forms of school technology are increasingly criticised for being boring, overly-standardised, and largely serving institutional imperatives, rather than pitched toward the interests of students and teachers.

Concerns are growing over the limited educational benefits of personalised learning systems, as well as the data and privacy implications of school platforms and systems such as Google Classroom.

The past six months have seen many schools forced to make the best of whatever technologies were immediately to hand. Previously reticent teachers now have first-hand experience of making use of unfamiliar technologies. Many parents are now on board with the educational potential of social media and games. Most importantly, students have been given a taste of what they can achieve with “their” own technology.

With US schools now exploring the benefits of establishing official TikTok creation clubs to enhance their video-making skills, it might be time for Australian educators to follow suit. Let’s take the opportunity to re-establish schools as places where teachers, students and families can work together to creatively learn with the devices and apps most familiar to their everyday lives.The Conversation

Neil Selwyn, Distinguished Research Professor, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Healthcare, minerals, energy, food: how adopting new tech could drive Australia’s economic recovery



CSIRO, Author provided

Katherine Wynn, CSIRO; James Deverell, CSIRO; Max Temminghoff, CSIRO, and Mingji Liu, CSIRO

Over the next few years, science and technology will have a vital role in supporting Australia’s economy as it strives to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

At Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, we’ve identified opportunities that can help businesses drive economic recovery.

We examined how the pandemic has created or intensified opportunities for economic growth across six sectors benefiting from science and technology. These are food and agribusiness, energy, health, mineral resources, digital and manufacturing.

Advanced healthcare

While some aspects of Australian healthcare are currently digitised, system-wide digital health integration could improve the quality of care and save money.

Doctors caring for patients with chronic diseases or complex conditions could digitally coordinate care routines. This could streamline patient care by avoiding consultation double-ups and providing a more holistic view of patient health.

We also see potential for more efficient healthcare delivery through medical diagnostic tests that are more portable and non-invasive. Such tests, supported by artificial intelligence and smart data storage approaches, would allow faster disease detection and monitoring.

There’s also opportunity for developing specialised components such as 3D-printed prosthetics, dental and bone implants.

Green energy

Despite a short-term plateau in energy consumption caused by COVID-19 globally, the demand for energy will continue to grow.

Through clean energy exports and energy initiatives aligned with decarbonisation goals, Australia can help meet global energy demands. Energy-efficient technologies offer immediate reduced energy costs, reduced carbon emissions and less demand on the energy grid. They also create local jobs.




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Innovating with food and agribusiness

The food and agribusiness sector is a prominent contributor to Australia’s economy and supports regional and rural prosperity.

Global population growth is driving an increased demand for protein. At the same time, consumers want more products that are sustainable and ethically sourced.

Australia could earn revenue from the local production and export of more sustainable proteins. This might include plant-based proteins such as pea and lupins, or aquaculture products such as farmed prawns and seaweed.

We could also offer more high-value health and well-being foods. Examples include fortified foods and products free from gluten, lactose and other allergens.

Automating minerals processes

Even before COVID-19 struck, the mineral resources sector was facing rising costs and declining ore grades. It’s also dealing with climate change impacts such as droughts, bushfires, floods, and social pressures to reduce environmental harm.

Several innovative solutions could help make the sector more productive and sustainable. For instance, increasing automation and remote mining (which Australia already excels in) could achieve improved safety for workers, more productivity and business continuity.




Read more:
The coronavirus has thrust human limitations into the spotlight. Will it mark the rise of automation?


Also, investing in advanced technologies that can generate higher quality data on mineral character and composition could improve yields and minimise environmental harm.

High-tech manufacturing

COVID-19 has escalated concerns around Australia’s supply chain fragility – take the toilet paper shortages earlier in the pandemic. Expanding local manufacturing efforts could create jobs and increase Australia’s earning potential.

This is especially true for mineral processing and manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, space technology and defence. Our local manufacturing will need to adapt quickly to changes in supply needs, ideally through the use of advanced designs and technology.

Digital solutions

In April and May this year, Australian businesses made huge strides in adopting consumer and business digital technologies. One study estimated five years’ worth of progress occurred in those eight weeks. Hundreds of thousands of businesses moved their work online.

Over the next two years, Australian businesses could become more efficient and adaptable by further monetising the data they already collect. For example, applying mobile sensors, robotics and machine learning techniques could help us make better resource decisions in agriculture.

Similarly, businesses could share more data throughout the supply chain, including with customers and competitors. For instance, increased data sharing among renewable energy providers and customers could improve the monitoring, forecasting and reliability of energy supply.

Making the right plans and investments now will determine Australia’s recovery and resilience in the future.The Conversation

Katherine Wynn, Lead Economist, CSIRO Futures, CSIRO; James Deverell, Director, CSIRO Futures, CSIRO; Max Temminghoff, Senior Consultant, CSIRO, and Mingji Liu, Senior Economic Consultant, CSIRO

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

From adenoviruses to RNA: the pros and cons of different COVID vaccine technologies



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Suresh Mahalingam, Griffith University and Adam Taylor, Griffith University

The World Health Organisation lists about 180 COVID-19 vaccines being developed around the world.

Each vaccine aims to use a slightly different approach to prepare your immune system to recognise and fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

However, we can group these technologies into five main types. Some technology is tried and trusted. Some technology has never before been used in a commercial vaccine for humans.

As we outline in our recent paper, each technology has its pros and cons.

Each of these five technologies is designed to prepare your immune system to recognise and respond to a future infection. Author provided.




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1. DNA/RNA-based

DNA and RNA vaccines use fragments of genetic material made in the lab. These fragments code for a part of the virus (such as its spike protein). After the vaccine is injected, your body uses instructions in the DNA/RNA to make copies of this virus part (or antigen). Your body recognises these and mounts an immune response, ready to protect you the next time you encounter the virus.

Pros

  • these vaccines can be quickly designed based on genetic sequencing alone

  • they can be easily manufactured, meaning they can potentially be produced cheaply

  • the DNA/RNA fragments do not cause COVID-19.

Cons

  • there are no approved DNA/RNA vaccines for medical use in humans, hence their alternative name: next-generation vaccines. So they are likely to face considerable regulatory hurdles before being approved for use

  • as they only allow a fragment of the virus to be made, they may prompt a poor protective immune response, meaning multiple boosters may be needed

  • there’s a theoretical probability vaccine DNA can integrate into your genome.

The speed at which these vaccines can be designed, needing only the genetic sequence of the virus, is why these vaccines were among the first to enter clinical trials.

An RNA vaccine, mRNA-1273, being developed by Moderna and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advanced to clinical testing just two months after the virus was sequenced.

2. Virus vectors

These vaccines use a virus, often weakened and incapable of causing disease itself, to deliver a virus antigen into the body. The virus’ ability to infect cells, express large amount of antigen and in turn trigger a strong immune response make these vaccines promising.

Examples of viruses used as vectors include vaccinia virus (used in the first ever vaccine, against smallpox) and adenovirus (a common cold virus).

Pros

  • highly specific delivery of antigens to target cells and high expression of antigen after vaccination

  • often a single dose is enough to stimulate long-term protection.

Cons

  • people may have existing levels of immune protection to the virus vector, reducing the effectiveness of the vaccine. In other words, the body raises an immune response to the vector rather than to the antigen

  • low-scale production of some virus-vectored vaccines means they are less cost-effective.

One high-profile example is the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine AZD1222 (formerly known as ChAdOx1), one of the two vaccines the Australian government wishes to use should phase 3 clinical trials prove successful. This vaccine is based on a modified chimpanzee adenovirus.




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Two adenovirus based COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for early or limited use internationally. These were developed by the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences with CanSino Biologics and the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s health ministry.




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Russian coronavirus vaccine results have been published – here’s what they reveal


3. Inactivated

Inactivated vaccines are a tried and trusted method of vaccination. It’s the technology used in the vaccine against poliovirus and in some types of flu vaccines. Inactivated vaccines contain viruses treated with heat, chemicals, or radiation so they cannot replicate, but can still trigger an immune response.

Pros

Cons

  • low immunogenicity, so requires multiple boosters.

The Chinese government has granted emergency approval for limited use of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech.

4. Live-attenuated virus

Live-attenuated vaccines are among the most successful existing vaccine strategies, already used to protect against measles and polio. These contain virus weakened in the lab. The virus is still viable (live) but cannot cause disease. After vaccination, the viruses in these vaccines grow and replicate, stimulating an excellent immune response.

Pros

  • strong protection as vaccine mimics the natural infection process

  • cost effective for large-scale manufacturing with a familiar regulatory approval pathway

  • single immunisation without needing extra molecules (adjuvants) to stimulate the immune system.

Cons

  • very rare potential to revert to a disease-causing state

  • limited use in people with weakened immune systems due to potential safety concerns

  • can require cold storage, which may limit potential for distribution.

Several live-attenuated COVID-19 vaccine candidates are currently in preclinical trials.

Our group, at Griffith University, has partnered with vaccine manufacturer Indian Immunologicals Ltd to develop a live-attenuated COVID-19 vaccine.




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5. Protein subunit

Subunit vaccines do not contain live components of the virus, but are made from purified pieces of the virus (protein antigens) that trigger an immune response. Again, this is an existing technology, used for instance in hepatitis B vaccines.

Pros

  • with no live components, subunit vaccines are generally thought to be safe

  • can be used in people with weakened immune systems and other vulnerable populations.

Cons

  • the protein antigens that best elicit an immune response must be investigated in detail

  • can stimulate an insufficient immune response meaning that protection is likely to require multiple boosters or for the vaccine to be given with an immune system stimulant.

The University of Queensland has developed a protein subunit vaccine for COVID-19 that is being combined with an immune stimulant made by CSL. It is another one of the vaccines Australia wishes to use, should phase 3 clinical trials prove successful.




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In a nutshell

Not all vaccines currently being developed to prevent COVID-19 will be successful. Safety issues or a lack of protection will halt some.

So, a broad portfolio of vaccine approaches and technologies is progressing through human trials is reassuring. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.

Ultimately, it is likely we’ll need a repertoire of COVID-19 vaccines to offer widespread protection. Different vaccine formulations will ensure vaccination is safe and effective for all members of society, including infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.




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5 ways our immune responses to COVID vaccines are unique


The Conversation


Suresh Mahalingam, Principal Research Leader, Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics Group, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University and Adam Taylor, Early Career Research Leader, Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics Group, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Thousand Talents Plan is part of China’s long quest to become the global scientific leader


James Jin Kang, Edith Cowan University

The Thousand Talents Plan is a Chinese government program to attract scientists and engineers from overseas. Since the plan began in 2008, it has recruited thousands of researchers from countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, Canada, Japan, France and Australia.

While many countries try to lure top international research talent, the US, Canada and others have raised concerns that the Thousand Talents Plan may facilitate espionage and theft of intellectual property.

Why are we hearing about it now?

China has long been suspected of engaging in hacking and intellectual property theft. In the early 2000s, Chinese hackers were involved in the downfall of the Canadian telecommunications corporation Nortel, which some have linked to the rise of Huawei.

These efforts have attracted greater scrutiny as Western powers grow concerned about China’s increasing global influence and foreign policy projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Last year, a US Senate committee declared the plan a threat to American interests. Earlier this year, Harvard nanotechnology expert Charles Lieber was arrested for lying about his links to the program.

In Australia, foreign policy think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute recently published a detailed report on Australian involvement in the plan. After media coverage of the plan, the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security is set to launch an inquiry into foreign interference in universities.




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What is the Thousand Talents Plan?

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) developed the Thousand Talents Plan to lure top scientific talent, with the goal of making China the world’s leader in science and technology by 2050. The CCP uses the plan to obtain technologies and expertise, and arguably, Intellectual Properties from overseas by illegal or non-transparent means to build their power by leveraging those technologies with minimal costs.

According to a US Senate committee report, the Thousand Talents Plan is one of more than 200 CCP talent recruitment programs. These programs drew in almost 60,000 professionals between 2008 and 2016.

China’s technology development and intellectual property portfolio has skyrocketed since the launch of the plan in 2008. Last year China overtook the US for the first time in filing the most international patents.

What are the issues?

The plan offers scientists funding and support to commercialise their research, and in return the Chinese government gains access to their technologies.

In 2019, a US Senate committee declared the plan a threat to American interests. It claimed one participating researcher stole information about US military jet engines, and more broadly that China uses American research and expertise for its own economic and military gain.




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China’s quest for techno-military supremacy


Dozens of Australian and US employees of universities and government are believed to have participated in the plan without having declared their involvement. In May, ASIO issued all Australian universities a warning about Chinese government recruitment activities.

On top of intellectual property issues, there are serious human rights concerns. Technologies transferred to China under the program have been used in the oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and in society-wide facial recognition and other forms of surveillance.

A global network

The Chinese government has established more than 600 recruitment stations globally. This includes 146 in the US, 57 each in Germany and Australia, and more than 40 each in the UK, Canada, Japan and France.

Recruitment agencies contracted by the CCP are paid A$30,000 annually plus incentives for each successful recruitment.

They deal with individual researchers rather than institutions as it is easier to monitor them. Participants do not have to leave their current jobs to be involved in the plan.




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This can raise conflicts of interest. In the US alone, 54 scientists have lost their jobs for failing to disclose this external funding, and more than 20 have been charged on espionage and fraud allegations.

In Australia, our education sector relies significantly on the export of education to Chinese students. Chinese nationals may be employed in various sectors including research institutions.

These nationals are targets for Thousand Talents Plan recruitment agents. Our government may not know what’s going on unless participants disclose information about their external employment or grants funded by the plan.

The case of Koala AI

Heng Tao Shen was recruited by the Thousand Talents Plan in 2014 while a professor at the University of Queensland. He became head of the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and founded a company called Koala AI.

Members of Koala AI’s research team reportedly now include Thousand Talents Plan scholars at the University of NSW, University of Melbourne and the National University of Singapore. The plan allows participants to stay at their overseas base as long as they work in China for a few months of the year.

The company’s surveillance technology was used by authorities in Xinjiang, raising human rights issues. Shen, who relocated to China in 2017 but was as an honorary professor at the University of Queensland until September 2019, reportedly failed to disclose this information to his Australian university, going against university policy.

What should be done?

Most participants in the plan are not illegally engaged and have not breached the rules of their governments or institutions. With greater transparency and stricter adherence to the rules of foreign states and institutions, the plan could benefit both China and other nations.

Governments, universities and research institutions, and security agencies all have a role to play here.

The government can build partnership with other parties to monitor the CCP’s talent recruitment activities and increase transparency on funding in universities. Investigations of illegal behaviour related to the talent recruitment activity can be conducted by security agencies. Research institutes can tighten the integrity of grant recipients by disclosing any participation in the talent recruitment plans.




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China and AI: what the world can learn and what it should be wary of


More resources should be invested towards compliance and enforcement in foreign funding processes, so that researchers understand involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan may carry national security risks.

Following US government scrutiny in 2018, Chinese government websites deleted online references to the plan and some Chinese universities stopped promoting it. The plan’s website also removed the names of participating scientists.

This shows a joint effort can influence the CCP and their recruitment stations to be more cautious in approaching candidates, and reduce the impact of this plan on local and domestic affairs.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Heng Tao Shen ceased to be an honorary professor at University of Queensland in September 2019.The Conversation

James Jin Kang, Lecturer, Computing and Security, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How misinformation about 5G is spreading within our government institutions – and who’s responsible



Aris Oikonomou/EPA

Michael Jensen, University of Canberra

“Fake news” is not just a problem of misleading or false claims on fringe websites, it is increasingly filtering into the mainstream and has the potential to be deeply destructive.

My recent analysis of more than 500 public submissions to a parliamentary committee on the launch of 5G in Australia shows just how pervasive misinformation campaigns have become at the highest levels of government. A significant number of the submissions peddled inaccurate claims about the health effects of 5G.

These falsehoods were prominent enough the committee felt compelled to address the issue in its final report. The report noted:

community confidence in 5G has been shaken by extensive misinformation
preying on the fears of the public spread via the internet, and presented as facts, particularly through social media.

This is a remarkable situation for Australian public policy – it is not common for a parliamentary inquiry to have to rebut the dodgy scientific claims it receives in the form of public submissions.

While many Australians might dismiss these claims as fringe conspiracy theories, the reach of this misinformation matters. If enough people act on the basis of these claims, it can cause harm to the wider public.

In late May, for example, protests against 5G, vaccines and COVID-19 restrictions were held in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Some protesters claimed 5G was causing COVID-19 and the pandemic was a hoax – a “plandemic” – perpetuated to enslave and subjugate the people to the state.




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Misinformation can also lead to violence. Last year, the FBI for the first time identified conspiracy theory-driven extremists as a terrorism threat.

Conspiracy theories that 5G causes autism, cancer and COVID-19 have also led to widespread arson attacks in the UK and Canada, along with verbal and physical attacks on employees of telecommunication companies.

The source of conspiracy messaging

To better understand the nature and origins of the misinformation campaigns against 5G in Australia, I examined the 530 submissions posted online to the parliament’s standing committee on communications and the arts.

The majority of submissions were from private citizens. A sizeable number, however, made claims about the health effects of 5G, parroting language from well-known conspiracy theory websites.

A perceived lack of “consent” (for example, here, here and here) about the planned 5G roll-out featured prominently in these submissions. One person argued she did not agree to allow 5G to be “delivered directly into” the home and “radiate” her family.




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To connect sentiments like this to conspiracy groups, I looked at two well-known conspiracy sites that have been identified as promoting narratives consistent with Russian misinformation operations – the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and Zero Hedge.

CRG is an organisation founded and directed by Michel Chossudovsky, a former professor at the University of Ottawa and opinion writer for Russia Today.

CRG has been flagged by NATO intelligence as part of wider efforts to undermine trust in “government and public institutions” in North America and Europe.

Zero Hedge, which is registered in Bulgaria, attracts millions of readers every month and ranks among the top 500 sites visited in the US. Most stories are geared toward an American audience.

Researchers at Rand have connected Zero Hedge with online influencers and other media sites known for advancing pro-Kremlin narratives, such as the claim that Ukraine, and not Russia, is to blame for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

Protesters targeting the coronavirus lockdown and 5G in Melbourne in May.
Scott Barbour/AAP

How it was used in parliamentary submissions

For my research, I scoured the top posts circulated by these groups on Facebook for false claims about the health threats posed by 5G. Some stories I found had headlines like “13 Reasons 5G Wireless Technology will be a Catastrophe for Humanity” and “Hundreds of Respected Scientists Sound Alarm about Health Effects as 5G Networks go Global”.

I then tracked the diffusion of these stories on Facebook and identified 10 public groups where they were posted. Two of the groups specifically targeted Australians – Australians for Safe Technology, a group with 48,000 members, and Australia Uncensored. Many others, such as the popular right-wing conspiracy group QAnon, also contained posts about the 5G debate in Australia.




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Conspiracy theories about 5G networks have skyrocketed since COVID-19


To determine the similarities in phrasing between the articles posted on these Facebook groups and submissions to the Australian parliamentary committee, I used the same technique to detect similarities in texts that is commonly used to detect plagiarism in student papers.

The analysis rates similarities in documents on a scale of 0 (entirely dissimilar) to 1 (exactly alike). There were 38 submissions with at least a 0.5 similarity to posts in the Facebook group 5G Network, Microwave Radiation Dangers and other Health Problems and 35 with a 0.5 similarity to the Australians for Safe Technology group.

This is significant because it means that for these 73 submissions, 50% of the language was, word for word, exactly the same as the posts from extreme conspiracy groups on Facebook.

The first 5G Optus tower in the suburb of Dickson in Canberra.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The impact of misinformation on policy-making

The process for soliciting submissions to a parliamentary inquiry is an important part of our democracy. In theory, it provides ordinary citizens and organisations with a voice in forming policy.

My findings suggest Facebook conspiracy groups and potentially other conspiracy sites are attempting to co-opt this process to directly influence the way Australians think about 5G.

In the pre-internet age, misinformation campaigns often had limited reach and took a significant amount of time to spread. They typically required the production of falsified documents and a sympathetic media outlet. Mainstream news would usually ignore such stories and few people would ever read them.

Today, however, one only needs to create a false social media account and a meme. Misinformation can spread quickly if it is amplified through online trolls and bots.

It can also spread quickly on Facebook, with its algorithm designed to drive ordinary users to extremist groups and pages by exploiting their attraction to divisive content.

And once this manipulative content has been widely disseminated, countering it is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

Misinformation has the potential to undermine faith in governments and institutions and make it more challenging for authorities to make demonstrable improvements in public life. This is why governments need to be more proactive in effectively communicating technical and scientific information, like details about 5G, to the public.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, a public sphere without trusted voices quickly becomes filled with misinformation.The Conversation

Michael Jensen, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

By persisting with COVIDSafe, Australia risks missing out on globally trusted contact tracing


Ritesh Chugh, CQUniversity Australia

Australia has ruled out abandoning the government’s COVIDSafe contact tracing app in favour of the rival “Gapple” model developed by Google and Apple, which is gaining widespread support around the world. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told The Project the COVIDSafe app was “a great platform”.

In the two months since its launch, COVIDSafe has been downloaded just over 6.4 million times – well short of the government’s target of 40% of the Australian population.

Its adoption was plagued by privacy, security and backwards compatibility concerns, and further exacerbated by excessive battery consumption. And despite being described as a vital tool in the response to COVID-19, it is reportedly yet to identify a single infection that hadn’t already been tracked down by manual contact tracing.




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It seems the app has failed to win the public’s trust. Software downloads are based on the perceptions of risk and anticipated benefits. In this scenario, the risks appear to outweigh the benefits, despite the dangers of a second coronavirus wave taking hold in our second most populous city.

COVID-19 cases in Melbourne continue to surge. But more broadly, the relatively low number of overall cases in Australia and the lack of adequate buy-in among the public make it difficult for COVIDSafe to make a meaningful contribution.

Is there another way?

Some 91% of Australians have a smartphone, whereas a rough calculation based on the 6.4 million downloads suggests only 28% have downloaded COVIDSafe.

For digital contact tracing to be effective, an uptake of around 60% of the population has been suggested – well beyond even the 40% target which COVIDSafe failed to hit.

The logic is straightforward: we need a system that 60% of people are willing and able to use. And such a system already exists.

Tech giants Apple and Google have collaboratively developed their own contact-tracing technology, dubbed the “Gapple” model.

How does Gapple work?

Gapple is not an app itself, but a framework that provides Bluetooth-based functionality by which contact tracing can work. Crucially, it has several features that lend it more privacy than COVIDSafe.

In simple terms, it allows Android and iOS (Apple) devices to communicate with one another using existing apps from health authorities, using a contact-tracing system built into the phones’ operating systems.

The system offers an opt-in exposure notification system that can alert users if they have been in close promixity to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Gapple’s exposure notification system.

Gapple’s decentralised exposure notification system offers more privacy and security than many other contact-tracing technologies, because:

  • it does not collect or track device location

  • data is collected on the users’ phones rather than a centralised server

  • it does not share users’ identities with other people, Apple or Google

  • health authorities do not have direct access to the data

  • users can continue to use the public health authority’s app without opting into the Gapple exposure notifications, and can turn the notification system off if they change their mind.

The system meets many of the basic principles of the American Civil Liberties Union’s criteria for technology-assisted contact tracing. And its exposure notification settings appear in recent updates of both Android and iOS devices. But without an app that uses the Gapple framework, the exposure notification system cannot be used.

COVID-19 Exposure Notification System.

Gapple going global

Global support for the Gapple model is growing. The United Kingdom, many parts of the United States, Switzerland, Latvia, Italy, Canada and Germany are abandoning their native contact-tracing technologies in favour of a model that could achieve much more widespread adoption worldwide.

The ease of communication between different devices will also make Gapple a crucial part of international contact tracing once borders are reopened in the future, and people start to travel.

In this light, it is hard to see why Australia resisted the calls to ditch COVIDSafe and adopt the Gapple model.

Can Australians use Gapple anyway?

No, they can’t, because the Gapple model requires users to download a native app from their region’s public health authority which uses the Gapple exposure notification system. Australia’s decision means that won’t be happening here any time soon.

In grappling with the dilemma between citizens’ civil rights and curbing the growth of the fatal COVID-19 virus, the Gapple model is a trade-off to encourage higher uptake of contact-tracing technologies.




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Ultimately, the Gapple model will be a step forward in the world’s fight against COVID-19, because it will encourage significant numbers of people to use it.

The decision to persist with the COVIDSafe app, rather than adopting an emerging global model, could have severe repercussions for Australians. For any digital contact-tracing technology to work effectively, a large number of people must use it, and COVIDSafe has fallen short of that basic requirement.The Conversation

Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer/Discipline Lead – Information Systems and Analysis, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.