Commentary: Why is a global vaccination certificate for travel taking so long to work out?

Commentary: Why is a global vaccination certificate for travel taking so long to work out?

27/11/2021 1:03:00 AM

Commentary: Why is a global vaccination certificate for travel taking so long to work out?

Establishing a global vaccine passport is looking like a long shot when many parts must come together, says INSEAD’s Wesley W Koo.

DIGITAL DIVIDES WITH A VACCINE PASSPORTEven after a digital standard is established, certain segments of the population may not be able to use it.The less educated, the poor, and those located in remote or underdeveloped regions are especially vulnerable to missing out when most are less familiar with technologies, like the QR code, which many of us take for granted, despite it being adopted widely in many countries and by certain population segments.

The ability to effectively use a digital tool often comes from interactions with others who have mastered the tool, instead of self-learning.Research by INSEAD found e-commerce entrepreneurs in rural China are less capable of understanding online algorithms compared to their urban counterparts because they do not have many offline, real-world contacts who can teach them about the algorithms.

Similarly, marginalised individuals, including migrant workers who cross borders for work, may be more likely to not adopt a digital vaccine passport if they cannot learn to effectively use it.Demonstrators rally against COVID-19 vaccines and passport mandates in California, Aug. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) headtopics.com

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Cultural traditions and belief systems may impede the uptake of a digital vaccine passport even if one is established.If one has concerns over the implications for privacy of personal information or strongly detests government involvement in personal affairs, they may hesitate to apply for the vaccine passport.

MOVING TOWARDS A GLOBAL STANDARDMoving toward a standardised digital vaccine passport at the global level is an urgent task, especially for countries like Singapore that depend so heavily on international trade.While the world has seen an increasing amount of remote communication through platforms such as Zoom, face-to-face communication is still key for facilitating knowledge exchange and in-depth learning, which are key to innovation and important deal- and decision-making.

Related:A smooth travelling experience enabled by a vaccine passport standard will encourage more travel and more productive communication.Several measures can increase the effective adoption of one. First, simplicity is key.The passport standard needs to be easy to implement in regions with few resources and little technical talent. A standard that requires multiple layers of interaction, for example, requiring a separate institute to verify records, is likely to be unfeasible.

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Second, while the standard must remain simple, the system needs to have a fair amount of modularity.Each country should have space to ensure record-keeping and reporting, and present other countries’ governments with a highly convenient interface to convert their country's vaccine record to the common standard. headtopics.com

It should allow WeChat to develop a tool to let Chinese citizens convert their green codes to the global standard with one click for example.Related:Commentary: Vaccine passports are within reach but important details must be worked out firstThird, the promoter of the passport standard likely needs to be an international organisation or a private entity, like the World Health Organization, rather than a particular government, to overcome the geopolitical tensions among countries posing barriers toward standard-setting.

Fourth, the standard promoter should start small with a few countries, demonstrate success, and quantify the impact in terms that make sense to governments around the world.Advertising success of the standard will put pressure on other countries to adopt it. As more countries adopt the standard, positive network effects will occur.

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The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a good start. For the 27 EU countries that have long shared the same currency, import tariff code and a variety of other economic standards, embracing a common vaccination certification is less controversial.The trouble is extending this to countries outside of the bloc like Russia that not only have their own digital vaccine standards but also the Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine not recognised by the EU.

This is not an impossible task when acceptance of the EU Digital COVID Certificate has broadened to a total of 43 countries, though it remains challenging.Wesley W Koo is an Assistant Professor of Strategy at INSEAD based in Singapore.

Read more: CNA »

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