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TECHNOLOGY THEATRE AND SEIZURE

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A number of the dead canaries pulled from the coal mine of our global trust crisis chirped to death over the role of technology. Edelman, the public relations firm behind the Trust Barometer, an annual global survey of public trust in institutions, has documented a steady downward spiral across categories and geographies for years.1 And a number of powerful books and articles have reflected on the relationship between digitisation, automation, and the legitimacy of the public services that employ them. In the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa—the 20th outbreak of Ebola in the region2—the biggest driver of spread was not the virus per se, it was that it struck in areas that lacked credible leadership. The true legitimacy test for any government is whether it can convince its people to do something difficult, together. The COVID-19 response requires us to make large changes to the way we do almost everything—and we have to hold those new stances, without fail, for an indeterminate period. Together.

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As many of the analyses in this collection illustrate, COVID-19 has exposed just how divided a number of societies are, both internally and with respect to the rest of the world. While technology is only one of the structural inequalities that limit the effectiveness of COVID-19 response efforts, the universal risk posed by the virus means that any app-based approach is an inequitable and marginal intervention, at best. The inability of technology to make COVID-19 legible to us, even granted nearly unrestrained invasion into our daily lives, should serve as a stark reminder of the tremendous inequities embedded by digital-first government. An unfortunately small amount of the press coverage of COVID-19 response technologies confronts those divides, nor their impact. To their credit, the earliest adopters of digital contact-tracing apps—the poster child for COVID-19 technology—have been transparent about their effectiveness. The leads of nearly every major digital contact tracing deployment have been clear that the apps have made little-to-no difference in tackling the spread of the virus, and in Israel, public health authorities have said they have been actively detrimental to the response.3 COMMENTARIES

Profile for Meatspace Press

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

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