Are the not so appy slipping through contact tracing net?

Ian Bushnell 15 July 2021 56
The Check In CBR app

The Check In CBR app. What about those who do not have a smartphone? Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It’s easy for governments to assume in these digital times that they need not bother with ‘outdated’ methods of doing business.

But it’s an assumption that can land them and the community in trouble, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s all very well to mandate checking in with the CBR Check In app wherever you go and slap a $1000 fine on those that don’t, but for those who don’t carry a smartphone or do have one but it is old enough not to be able to install the app, it is not so easy to do the right thing, short of forking out for a new device.

Many venues, including a major supermarket and department store at Woden this week, do not have signs advising of the alternatives, leaving it up to the customer to request counter staff they be checked or signed in if no one is on the door.

Sometimes only a name is being taken, without a phone number, for potential contact tracing.


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While ACT Health is praising the app for how it is keeping track of people’s movements, what about those slipping through the net through no fault of their own?

The potential is for carriers to be missed, exposure sites unidentified and the vital chain of transmission to be broken.

While it may seem a burden for businesses to make sure all their customers are checked in, that’s what needs to happen.

Government should be offering support and signage to businesses beyond the now-familiar CBR Check In posters so that when someone without a phone enters premises there is no doubt what they have to do, and that the venue can easily check them in or they can sign in the old fashioned way.

Yes, there is an onus on us all to do the right thing, but it should be made as easy as possible for everyone.

We cannot afford to ignore some people or pretend they do not exist.


READ ALSO: Is it time we stopped talking about dieting and weight loss in public?


The government should also ensure that venues and businesses comply at all levels across the check-in process. For example, a customer should not be able to stroll through many sections of a department store unnoticed.

At least on the ACT’s public transport, used by many who may not have a smartphone, they can use their MyWay card.

But the set-and-forget attitude that seems to be the hallmark of the app system alienates some people and leaves too many gaps.

The temptation to rely completely on digital services and apps to do the work also excludes and disenfranchises sections of the community who, for whatever reason cannot, or choose not to, be a part of a ‘connected’ society.

Even for the tech-savvy, some interactions with service providers and government agencies can be excruciating experiences.

It may be that it is simply a matter of time before all of us do not venture out into the world without the latest device in our pockets, and all our business can be done easily online.

But in the current situation, where assumption has already left us dangerously exposed, the government needs to make sure it has all the contact tracing bases covered.


What's Your Opinion?


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56 Responses to Are the not so appy slipping through contact tracing net?
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:36 pm 16 Jul 21

The future handling of this is going to be interesting to watch, particularly in the absence of joyous news (thus far) from this afternoon’s National Cabinet about the ACT’s demand for a federally-funded small business support package.

The report on tonight’s ABC TV news about the contrast between the circumstances faced by small businesses in Queanbeyan, compared to their counterparts in Canberra, focused more on mask requirements, but the underlying issues are much the same.

Acton Acton 2:19 pm 16 Jul 21

If you have to check-in at a shop, why not also require people to check-in at a home too?.
Just like for all businesses and other places now with QR codes, it would be easy for the government to send out adhesive QR codes to be placed on everyone’s front door for you, family, friends and all visitors to sign in upon entrance. Fines if you don’t.
Afterall, the government will say a virus can’t tell the difference between a shop and a home.
That could be the next step for a docile, unprotesting, compliant and fearful population that is incapable of recognising or protecting its rights.

    JC JC 3:56 pm 16 Jul 21

    Might be swinging to do with you knowing who comes into your home as opposed to some random rocking up to a business.

Peter Evans Peter Evans 12:18 pm 16 Jul 21

Is it time to add a feature to the app to record when someone is fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated can then attend things others can't or travel more freely. Say from 1 Sept or 20% of adults fully vaccinated, whichever comes first.

Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons 11:37 am 16 Jul 21

Businesses can sign you in if you have an older phone, don't have the app or don't carry a phone with you.

Julia Felton Julia Felton 11:33 am 16 Jul 21

My issue is that there isn't one check-in app for the whole country. I now have 5 apps installed. Surely the one national app would be more effective. Then maybe the contact tracing could be spread across all States so say Tas and ACT tracers could help out NSW and Vic

    Luke Ashe Luke Ashe 12:09 pm 16 Jul 21

    Julia Felton it's found, I think it was 15 people since it's been in use

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 12:45 pm 16 Jul 21

    Mel Lisa problems being it didn’t have check-in capability and it doesn’t work! They picked the wrong technologies and then stick doggedly with it despite knowing its a dud.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:05 am 16 Jul 21

The article has, “It’s all very well to mandate checking in with the CBR Check In app wherever you go and slap a $1000 fine on those that don’t, but for those who don’t carry a smartphone or do have one but it is old enough not to be able to install the app, it is not so easy to do the right thing, short of forking out for a new device.”

Yesterday at the markets, one of the spruikers on one of the fruit and vegetable stalls was shouting, “Don’t forget to sign in at each and every business you visit here. If you don’t know how see me and I will help you load the app.”

I have also visited businesses with instructions written down explaining how to install the app. Also with people willing to assist people to load the app, if they have a smart phone that can take the app. Some older smart phones don’t always take all apps.

For those with older phones which can’t take the app, or those with no phone, you can be checked in manually. I have visited a few places and had forgotten my phone (a market, an open house, etc), and have been checked in manually.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:32 am 16 Jul 21

What is a “My Way” card?

    Gail D Gillin Gail D Gillin 10:47 am 16 Jul 21

    Card you load your purchased $ value of public transport access onto. For seniors it is on the reverse of your Seniors Card. Available via COTA.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:00 pm 16 Jul 21

    Public transport definitely is not “my way” of travelling and seniors discounts go nowhere in taking the sting out the price of hyper-expensive trades and services available in Canberra.

    Even the ACT Government seniors’ discount on motor vehicle registration is a joke!

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 10:32 am 16 Jul 21

I find that sometimes the CBR checks in quickly and easily, in other places it doesn’t. This morning, entering the Canberra Centre, it asked me to manually enter the numbers, which I did. I just checked it now in the History, but surprise, surprise, it didn’t register. It’s not like a store, where I could have Sked an assistant to register me.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 10:53 am 16 Jul 21

    Trish Roberts sometimes they laminate the poster so the reflective surface makes it impossible to scan.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 12:42 pm 16 Jul 21

    Trish Roberts most likely poor phone reception. It seems to ask for manual entry if it can’t match the scan.

Jessica En Bee Jessica En Bee 10:28 am 16 Jul 21

My Way cards can be registered to use for checking in apparently for those who don’t have a smart phone.

    Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 1:01 pm 16 Jul 21

    Jessica En Bee is that only on public transport or everywhere?

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 10:17 pm 16 Jul 21

    Margaret Lay only on public transport I believe.

Jen Suess Jen Suess 10:22 am 16 Jul 21

My biggest issue is that people stand in front of the QR code doing the whole process. Scan the code and step to the side. The app is so easy that you can almost just walk past the code with the app scanner open and it'll pick it up. You don't have to stand in front of it for ages, unlike the NSW one. Every time I've had to scan in NSW I've had to spend ages getting the right angle to scan it.

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 10:20 pm 16 Jul 21

    Jen Suess most places we go have more than one copy.

Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 10:09 am 16 Jul 21

The perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. If the App captures 95% easily and with fewer errors, just work on the remaining 5%.

I’d be willing to bet deliberate non-compliance/ couldn’t be bothered is a bigger source of missing contacts than those who can’t use the technology.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 12:50 pm 16 Jul 21

    I agree totally Colin - my wife was waiting for me recently, in a car park near a Subway and she saw 17 people (yeah she counted them out of interest) in the space of 15 minutes, walk straight passed the sign-in QR code without checking in. She could actually see clearly into the shop and none of them checked in inside either 🙄

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 1:29 pm 16 Jul 21

    Mark Oz I visited a Subway in a country town and they asked to see my log in. That’s a staff issue. They could be asking to see it too.

    Mark Oz Mark Oz 4:34 pm 16 Jul 21

    Hi Julie - yes, staff could ask and I have on occasion been asked to “show the green tick” in NSW towns (never in ACT that I recall) … but wouldn’t it be nice if people could simply do the right thing for the safety of all. Excuse me, I have to run, the pigs are almost fuelled and ready to fly.

Rosemary Brooker Rosemary Brooker 10:08 am 16 Jul 21

Perhaps those who have someone in their family without a mobile phone with data, could make a small card with their name & landline or mobile phone number, to carry with them when they leave home. This would make it easier for them & also the person in the store etc, who has to check them in. Even better if this goes on for years, then state governments could do this too for those without the technology.

    Ross Bryant Ross Bryant 12:58 pm 16 Jul 21

    Rosemary Brooker good idea. Would make it so much easier for shop/business and person who wants to check in

    Jason Blair Jason Blair 9:51 pm 17 Jul 21

    Rosemary Brooker , or just make up something like a bunch of home made business cards to hand out when required.

Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 9:58 am 16 Jul 21

Over reliant? No we're not, it's a simple and effective way to contact trace and takes literally no effort by everyone to use. Essential businesses have methods of check-in that don't require a phone. Anyone can also log their travels, it's not a difficult system.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 10:51 am 16 Jul 21

    Ashley Latimer re logging travels, it appears the CBR Check-In app has evolved in the past week or so. I attended my son's school on Monday and forgot to check in, I got a notification from the app asking if I had forgotten to check in at that location. So the app is now getting access to our GPS.

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 10:59 am 16 Jul 21

    Renee Mae I personally don't see that as an issue given the circumstances. If the government really wants to know where we are, they can access our geocached metadata from any phone app we use.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 11:05 am 16 Jul 21

    Ashley Latimer not saying there is an issue, I just got a surprise when I got the notification lol. It actually allowed me to do the check-in after I left the school so it's a good example of how they are working to expand the technology to close the gaps.

John Moulis John Moulis 9:39 am 16 Jul 21

Has anybody tried to use the New South Wales check in app? It’s pathetic. We went to Queanbeyan for an event over the weekend and tried to use the New South Wales app and it didn’t work. We pressed the button on our phones to use the camera to read the QR code and either nothing happened or an error message came up. At least the ACT app is foolproof and works every time.

    Maya123 Maya123 10:52 am 16 Jul 21

    I agree about the NSW app it’s a pain. I tried to install it and was taken in circles. Fail! So now I access it via the QR scanner, but it’s slower to use than the ACT one. You also have to log off on the NSW one and numerous times I have lost this and had to start again, which means times are out.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 12:29 pm 16 Jul 21

    Yeah, I agree it’s a bit clunky, John. One of the things I do like though, is the ability to record your checkout time – when I remember!!!

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 9:33 am 16 Jul 21

I’d like to see the stats on the number of people with smart phones that just ignore checking in versus the number without a smart phone who can’t check in.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 10:50 am 16 Jul 21

    Shane Jasprizza agreed, nothing is ever going to be foolproof.

Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 9:18 am 16 Jul 21

The article suggests that people will have no idea what to do. It is almost an insult to one's inteligence.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 10:40 am 16 Jul 21

    Robert Hawes oh you wouldn't believe the willful ignorance in some quarters, I was talking to someone on the phone the other day who was in Sydney and hoping to return to ACT tomorrow, they were adamant that the specific suburb they were staying in wasn't a hotspot so they could just return and go back to business as usual. I sent them the link to the ACT Health travel advice and the COVID19 national hotline but whilstever Murrays continue to run buses and unless ACT Health or police are waiting at the Jolimont it's only a matter of time.

Penelope Rose Penelope Rose 8:08 am 16 Jul 21

This journalist doesn't even know how it works. If he did, he would know businesses receive a pack in the mail after signing up, the pack contains all the information and signage (QR Code). Businesses can check in customers if the customer is unable to for whatever reason. Its up to the business to make it as easy as possible for customers to check in. If you see at a business its not that easy to check in for whatever reason, e.g signage (QR code) not displayed easily, just mention it to the staff or manager, a helpful suggestion. Busy businesses can check in people, I do it at my own busy business, I have been from the very start of the app being released and its not a big deal. Customers just need to be patient and businesses too. If you're arriving to an appointment, movies etc, arrive slightly earlier to get the checkin happening so you don't miss your appointment. If you're going to a grocery store, just be patient and a staff member will happily help. It's about the way you approach the situation with a open mind and knowing everyone is doing it, so don't take it personal that you're the only one being "inconvenienced". Be kind, allow time. 🙂

Acton Acton 7:48 am 16 Jul 21

I know a 95 year old who lives alone is still able to drive to the local shops to get supplies. He does not use or want a smart phone so would not be able to use a check in app. Yes, there are still people who get by without smart phones and they must not be banned from entering shops. If they are banned from shopping because they dont have a smart phone their independence and lifestyle is seriously diminished. A society is judged by how it cares for its most vulnerable.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:07 am 16 Jul 21

    They treat us like we are invisible. Lack of dexterity means it’s next to impossible to even hold a new-type smart phone let alone use it.

    Where are the advisory groups representing seniors?

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 12:25 pm 16 Jul 21

    Well I can tell you, CapitalRetro, that one such agency, National Seniors Australia, has gone fully digital/web based, for all of the information for its members. So all seniors have to do is use Google to find this information … ? Gotta love Catch22!

    Maya123 Maya123 10:54 am 16 Jul 21

    Shops, etc can check you in. When I first went to NSW I had them check me in. A few times I have forgotten my phone, so I have been checked in. Easy. Ask to be checked in.

    Acton Acton 2:26 pm 16 Jul 21

    I tested this out this morning and yes, shop staff will check you in with their own phone after asking for your name and phone number. Whether shops want to allocate staff to do this for grumpy phone-less oldies on a permanent basis is another question. Another interesting thing, you can use a fake name and phone number.

Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:28 am 16 Jul 21

I recently signed up the business where I work. The ACT government sent us a good information pack explaining how to check in those without the app.

It seems the author of the article is unaware of this help being given to businesses when they sign up.

    Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 7:42 am 16 Jul 21

    Cool, any tips for going grocery shopping without a willing mobile phone?

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:50 am 16 Jul 21

    Natalee Gersbach just ask a staff person at the entrance / service desk to check you in.

    Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 7:53 am 16 Jul 21

    Martin Budden Aldi doesn't have a service desk and the people at the checkouts are always busy serving.

    Stewart Petersen Stewart Petersen 8:35 am 16 Jul 21

    Natalee Gersbach then as a sign of protest, you should shop elsewhere. Aldi should be doing better

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 8:55 am 16 Jul 21

    Natalee Gersbach you can interrupt the person serving to call a manager, it only takes them a moment to push the button.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 10:02 am 16 Jul 21

    Natalee Gersbach take a friend😀

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 10:10 am 16 Jul 21

    Colin Vivian that also works!

    Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 5:43 pm 16 Jul 21

    Turns out there is a sign in sheet on the way out.

    Not so easy for refueling at Costco though.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 5:58 pm 16 Jul 21

    Natalee Gersbach at Costco you can pay at pump. No need to go inside.

    Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 6:48 pm 16 Jul 21

    Martin Budden You'd think so, right? There was a sign up on the bowser that you had to check in before refueling.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 6:59 pm 16 Jul 21

    Natalee Gersbach well that's odd!

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