Digital paradise

Australia got off to a good start. We applied for our visas completely online. We supplied all the supporting documentation as PDF files and finally received an email saying we were good to visit. No paper; no post; no signatures and no stamp in our passports.

When we arrived the border force came onboard and asked for various documents which we sent them by email. In return they set up a a cruising permit in their system and sent us a copy as an email attachment. Once again no trees died. The police scanned our passports and their screen showed a green tick. We were all cleared in without lifting a pen.

We sent scans of our french vaccination certificates to a medical center and they converted them to Australian digital certificates. Online we created an Australian health record and then our certificates were linked to our records. A few days later we received our booster jab and that appeared online the next day. We downloaded the Queensland covid App, linked it to our health number and immediately it showed a big green tick which allows us to go anywhere as “certified vaccinated”. And we still don’t have any paper. A few times we have rung the border force who answer the phone straight away, ask for our passport number or boat name and straight away know everything. They let us make our position reports by phone or email.

The supermarkets, who have upped the contactless payment limit to $200, also offer online shopping and free delivery for big orders. The two biggest chains offer self service checkouts which we sort of understand after three tries. We are getting there.

off an uninhabited island

Our €16/month phone contracts include more data than we can use and unlimited calls to 15 countries including Germany. And, until now we have had a 4G connection everywhere except the remotest island. We still had Internet but “only” 3G – at the far end of nowhere.

We visited a cafe where we scanned a bar-code on the table, the menu appeared on the screen and we ordered direct from the phone. Online shopping “just works”. We downloaded the Uber App, linked it to a credit card and enjoyed a trip back from Aldi in an immaculately clean car driven by a friendly driver. The App told us exactly what it would cost before we ordered and exactly how many minutes it would be until the car arrived.

It is going to take a lot of getting used to when we visit the “data-protection” paradise in Germany. The thought of dealing with health insurance companies and tax offices who think a fax machine is suspiciously modern is enough to cause nightmares.

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