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 Long-distance and cross-border tourism has rescinded.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 discussed the pros and cons of digital vaccination certificates, the opportunities and risks. In doing so, we remembered 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 realises 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 looked 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 weren’t listed but then the spirit came in different forms and shapes…
1 July 2021, 16:00 hrs. CEST
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.