Technology has kept pace with extraordinary challenges, but trust in the authorities has to be earned, says this expert.

During this year-long period of global pandemic challenges, innovation has flourished to help keep economies alive, businesses operating, and people safe.

The latest innovation making headlines is the development and use of ‘digital vaccination passports’. These certificates go beyond contact tracing apps (which let people know if they have been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19), and they will be used to track and validate each person’s identity and vaccination status. 

Vaccination passports are already gaining popularity across Asia. China was one of the first countries to talk about this idea and it has been officially rolled it on WeChat, as a hard copy and in digital form. China hopes to gain global recognition for this, and the country is actively encouraging others to implement vaccination passports as well, in the hope that this will help to support a return of wider international travel as inoculations become widespread.

Other nations, including Australia, Thailand, Denmark, and Sweden, are also making plans to implement compulsory nationwide use of vaccination passports.

Widespread adoption and trust needed

The concept has been tested by many airlines across Asia too. Air Asia has been talking about vaccination passports as early as December last year, and Singapore Airlines is undergoing testing before implementing mandatory vaccine passports for all its passengers.

There are signs that travel across Asia is definitely in the foreseeable future, as the governments of Hong Kong and Singapore are continuing discussions over a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two cities that was delayed last year after Hong Kong experienced a resurgence in infection clusters. Now that vaccinations are underway worldwide, governments are keen to get this back to some level of normality and see these digital passports as a gateway to this. 

For the vaccine passport to work across Asia and the globe, widespread adoption and trust in local governments will be needed. The latter authorities, to maintain the trust of their citizens with the rollout of potential digital vaccine passports, will need to focus on managing personal data transparently from the start. This is only going to become more crucial in the future. 

Alongside privacy, authenticating the credentials in these passports will also be critical. Blockchain-based verification presents one means of achieving this, and when utilized in conjunction with intelligent passwordless authentication methods, it will ensure authenticity is prioritized for the credentials of each digital passport.

Ensuring successful inclusion

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on people around the world. Many have been separated from family members in other countries for almost a year and others have lost loved ones. However, over the last year, we have had a chance to use technology to come together and actually solve these challenges.

As we look ahead, the roll out of vaccine passports and other similar technologies will take us one step closer to rebuilding a better future. Successful rollouts need to ensure that people understand exactly what their personal health information will be used for, who has access to it, and what that will prevent them from doing.

People should also be given the choice to use the app and share this information about themselves entirely. The big reason why people will consider downloading and using it is because it opens them up to being able to travel internationally for work and personal life. 

Additionally, one major consideration for these types of passports that must not be overlooked is ensuring they are accessible to the widest portion of the population as possible.

Finally, ensure a good user experience by providing clear, easy-to-use log-in procedures without bombarding users with too much information at once, and simple layouts showing all relevant information. By being inclusive, user friendly and widely trusted, these services will be in a stronger position to keep as many citizens engaged with the service as possible.