Digital Debates

The Online Debate from a Civil Society Perspective


Digital Debate 5: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Digital Vaccination Certificates for Safe Travel

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the travel industry to a standstill. Family and business travel has been severely impacted. Long-distance and cross-border tourism has rescinded. But there is good news coming: everybody wants to travel and digital vaccination certificates will, at least in North America and Western Europe, restart the travel season soon.


Hosted by Barb Iverson, the 5th Digital Debate will discuss the pros and cons of digital vaccination certificates, the opportunities and risks.  In doing so, we will remember an ancient tale and poem, made famous by Walt Disney’s movie Fantasia, about an old sorcerer leaving his apprentice in charge of his workshop. The apprentice has to fetch water but enchants a broom to do the work for him, using magic in which he is yet not fully trained. Then hell breaks loose, the floor is awash with floods of water, and the apprentice realizes that he cannot control nor stop the broom because he does not know the magic required to do so. He exclaims: “Spirits that I’ve cited, My commands ignore!”.

Having this old tale in mind, the panel will look at whether digital COVID-19 Vaccine Certificates are the magical solution to relaunch international mobility. Rights advocates might argue favourably since the new certificate will promote freedom of movement on a global scale. But even at home, if a certificate is good enough abroad, it might give us our rights back as long as we can proof that we have been tested, vaccinated, or recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

But what if the magical bullet is risky and the spirits we have cited cannot be controlled? Is it right to assume that everybody will benefit from it since there will be universal access to vaccination and digital services? Tourism has been for a long time one-directional: North visits South. Is the digital travel certificate going to reinforce that trend or will the tourism industry in the global South be shut down altogether? There is reason to believe that each new variant of the virus, in particular in areas with a low vaccination coverage, will be followed by revised travel regulations impacting in particular the global South. Surveillance on the internet is not a new concern but what are the chances to be tracked in the future for public health reasons? And finally, what kind of precedent will the COVID-19 Travel Vaccine Certificates establish: will there be a creeping effect whereby other health related information and pathologies are added to the certificate, such as diabetes, cardiological issues, HIV status, etc. and what they will be used for if not for travel?

Other issues aren’t listed but then the spirit might come in different forms and shapes…

1 July 2021, 16:00 hrs. CEST 

Register here


Digital Debates: Event Series

Every month, this event series will provide inspiring discussions for the civil society sector based on the constant change that digitalisation brings to our societies. Each debate will be a call to action for CSOs to take a more active role in shaping our digital future.

Barbara Iverson will moderate each debate. She teaches Interpersonal Skills and Intercultural Management at the CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin.

Digital Debate Panellists

  • Astha Kapoor
  • Co-Founder and Director, AAPTI Institute, India
  • Bio
  • Rémi Tell
  • Co-Founder and Director, Peuple Libre, France
  • Dakota Gruener
  • E.D. at ID2020, Digital and Blockchain Specialist, USA

Further Reading

The Tale of two Lounges: International Mobility in post-Covid Times

How to fight exclusion by design and default and, rather, maintain the rights of those with limited or no access to vaccination, health and digital resources to public life, education, livelihoods and other socio-economic opportunities? Are vaccine passports really the answer to international mobility in post-Covid19 times ?This blog post touches upon the topic of international mobility in post-Covid times, raising some important questions around vaccine passports and their restrictive consequences for countries with low vaccination coverage and deficient digital infrastructure.