Curse those who presume we can all use new technology like NHS Covid-19 app - Sarah Todd

IGNORANCE isn’t always bliss. To be completely blinkered towards new technology is nothing to be proud of.

The NHS Covid-19 app is proving challenging for the less tech-savvy, writes Sarah Todd. Picture: PA

However, when did our country become a place where it was presumed that the entire population knows what an “app” is?

Broadcasts to the nation keep reminding us to protect our loved ones and “download the app”. Just this weekend gone, every newspaper in the country seemed to have had its front page taken over with the public health advert for the new NHS Covid-19 app.

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Apparently – forgive the pun – it alerts you if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson scans his NHS Coronavirus App at Uxbridge Library during a walkabout where he met shoppers and shopkeepers in his constituency of Uxbridge. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Guess what this writer’s mobile phone is used for? Telephone calls. If the teenage children need picking up or have some other emergency they try the home phone first and, as a last resort, they try the mobile.

There isn’t a particularly good signal where we live and the wi-fi is patchy, so apart from the odd text message – a skill learnt a couple of years ago – the only other thing it gets used for is taking the occasional photograph.

In my late 40s, there are still the aforementioned offspring around who would download an app for me. But what about the older generation? Perhaps it’s just a hang-up of my making and maybe the retireds are happily checking into venues using QR scanners – pardon?

As we began, ignorance isn’t bliss and this Luddite has come to the realisation that there is nothing clever about being as uninterested in technology as me.

Dame Esther Rantzen is at the forefront of campaigns to combat loneliness. She is one of columnist Sarah Todd's inspirations.

But surely this massive campaign to get us using this app should include an idiot’s guide on how to get it on your phone in the first place?

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It’s the presumption that we are all living hi-tech lives downloading apps and shopping online that is so very annoying. It’s people like me who will keep High Street banks and shops going.

Hell would freeze over before this shopper would use a self-checkout till. Blessed technology, are people too thick to see there won’t be any jobs left because of it? It’s also just presumed that every person in the country has a mobile phone.

It also seems highly likely that the people who take the time to download this app won’t be the ones having house parties after the pubs kick out at 10pm. They will be responsible citizens.

Surely the money needs spending in problem areas? From kindly marshals chatting and educating local communities through to the Army out on the streets showing any persistent idiots that this country means business.

Growing up in the 1970s, Esther Rantzen – now of course a Dame – was well known to me. Always a well-respected campaigning journalist (apart from the rude vegetables), she now seems to have morphed into the nation’s granny and has spoken so much common sense throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Just last week she was urging her generation’s children and grandchildren to pick up the telephone and make an actual call rather than sending a text.

She has also been at the forefront of the campaign to keep the BBC licence fee free for the over-70s, speaking with such utter common sense.

Her thoughts are that it is an outrage if any of the broadcaster’s staff or presenters are paid more than the £150,000 our Prime Minister is given as his salary.

What an easy to understand benchmark. Nobody should get more than the man who has the worries and responsibility of the whole country on his shoulders.

In wading into this argument, she dared speak the sad truth that for many older people the television is their only company. Something that has become even truer throughout these long months of pandemic.

Dame Esther has set up the Silver Line charity to offer free advice and friendship to older people. And guess what?

Whenever you hear her being interviewed on television or the radio, she says the charity’s telephone number.

Of course there is a website, but this is one woman who knows that not every single member of the population is online; making high-powered Zoom calls or downloading apps.

Eighty-year-old Dame Esther has often quoted Bette Davis, who famously said “old age is not for cissies”. It’s not.

To finish with another quote, George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place…”

The Silver Line telephone number is 0800 4708090.

Sarah Todd is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.

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