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The COVID-19 fight: InternetNZ to hold online meeting on contact tracing technology

InternetNZ will host an online meeting next week to discuss contact tracing technology, and to work through the issues associated with it. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced contact tracing technology will be one of the three pillars in New Zealand's strategy to contain COVID-19, as the country moves into the third week of level four lockdown. 

The second death in New Zealand as a result of the virus was announced Saturday.

During the online meeting, InternetNZ will offer its thinking on how the internet might be used to support efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The organisation has also released two documents to help inform the discussion.

"In this unprecedented time of physical distancing, we have seen New Zealanders use the internet to connect with each other, work from home, and stay informed," says InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter.

"Now it’s time to explore the potential for the Internet to also help us with contact tracing and containing the spread of COVID-19", he says.

InternetNZ acknowledges the Prime Minister’s three pillars for successful COVID-19 response: border control, vigorous testing and contact tracing, and using all the technology available. 

"We welcome this approach, and now we must ensure that any technology solution is developed and implemented in a way that earns the trust and buy-in of all New Zealanders," Carter says.

"New Zealanders should understand how their phone can be used to help health professionals conduct efficient and effective contact tracing, and should be able to opt in or out of any location tracking based technologies", he explains.

To contribute to this conversation, InternetNZ has released two short discussion papers: 

Contact tracing and your data: an introduction‘
"'Contact tracing and your data’ is an introduction to how your phone can be used to track your location, and how this information could be used to help experts understand COVID-19, and enable efficient, effective contact tracing," says Carter.

"We also have a look at a few ways the government could use existing tech to implement nationwide proximity and location pinpointing."

Let's talk contact tracing: our offer to host a conversation on social licence
"‘Talking contact tracing’ is our offer to host the conversation needed to ensure any technology for contact tracing will earn the trust and support of New Zealanders. Building this social licence will be important for any contact tracing technology to be effective," explains Carter.

"We are offering to host an online conversation the week after Easter so this can happen quickly, in a way that can reach New Zealanders during the current Level 4 lockdown," he adds. 

We want to see government, health, technology, civil society and academia collaborating towards outcomes that reflect the values of New Zealanders, as we meet challenges of COVID-19 together."