Vaccine certificates and digital inclusion

For some older Australians, the pandemic has been a terrific opportunity to get new technology skills. For those with limited mobility, or other disabilities, the shift to zoom events has made society more inclusive. However, for those without the resources, skills, access, or desire to do things online, it has made life harder.

We have known for a long time that many government agencies and big organisations have neither the will nor the skills to be genuinely inclusive. The answer to the digital divide isn’t to explain harder, louder, or clearer, it’s to be genuinely inclusive, by offering information and services in the way people need and want them. That means while improving digital services, non-digital solutions (paper and phone) also need to be implemented.

The digital divide doesn’t mean older Australians won’t use digital services – COTA hears from many tech savvy older people enjoying the freedom of no longer having to wait on the phone to do something. Its why its critical as Governments do design digital services, they must include a representative sample of older people in their design processes from all abilities.

But for some older people (and younger people), communicating with Government or big organisations online simply isn’t an option. And so it has been with Vaccine certificates and the Australian Government. Around 20 percent of people who have received their vaccination, are reported to have not yet accessed their vaccination certificate.

Whilst I will give credit to many of the hard-working public servants involved, who have done everything they can to try and make the system work, for some older Australians, the program continues to exclude them.

For those who are comfortable with or able to operate online, the process has been reported to us as difficult to complete. If they didn’t have their MyGovID set up, some faced multiple problems and long waits. Hundreds of thousands of older people have a Proof of Age or Photo ID card issued by their State or Territory Government, but these cards can’t be used to prove your identity when creating your MyGovID.

It has also been confusing where to go. There is no single “MyGov” app  that you access all government services through (though that is in the pipeline for next year). Initially Australians were told to access their vaccine certificate from the Australian Immunisation Register via their Medicare account. Now your digital vaccination certificate is also available in you My Health Record, along with your COVID-19 test results in one ‘COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard’ (more information here).

For those without the high level of tech skills necessary, or without access to the technology, no good option is available. You can call the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 Monday to Friday 8 am to 5 pm and they’ll post you a copy of your COVID Vaccination Certificate. In our experience it may take some time to get through on that number, so be prepared for a wait and pleasantly surprised if  it’s a short one.

COTA Australia will continue to campaign to ensure government and corporations deliver services in the way older people choose – both online and offline.