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Information Technology Assignment: Opinion Piece On China’s Health Code During Covid-19


Task: Please submit an opinion piece in this information technology assignment that:
(a) is related to an issue/idea/event related to innovation and technology public (not corporate/business) policy in Hong Kong OR Mainland China,
(b) is timely (connected to something that has occurred or been in the news during the semester of our study (or at most in the second half of this year)
(c) reflects your opinion (neither a regurgitation of a piece of news or event nor a reflection of the opinion of others).


As evident in the present context of information technology assignment, since the emergence of COVID-19, politicians and researchers have taken a keen interest in digital contact tracking. While the health code, a smartphone-based digital programme, is frequently mentioned as one of the earliest and most extensively used applications in contemporary concerns about digital contact tracking, it has not been investigated explicitly. By searching for the health code mini app in their city (or region) via Alipay or WeChat, any user registers and thus is asked to give personal information as well as journey data (Bernot, 2021). Using data from public services, including such public transportation systems, ICT companies, and hospitals, this health code software determines an individual's viral risk level as well as generates a coloured QR code for that person. Second, such data were gathered at the provincial governments and transmitted to a national, common platform in which they were evaluated. An individual's risk of exposure to COVID-19 was assessed for each participant thereafter. However, it was alluded that, the mere contact tracing app was part of a far bigger plan and it paved the road nicely for strict authoritarian regimes.

When the health rules went into effect, Hangzhou was the very first city to do so in February 2020. This backlash occurred in May 2020, when a proposal to utilise the app for those other purposes (such as tracking people's living habits) was made by the city authorities. Concerns were heightened when, in December 2020, Beijing's health code database was breached (Chifu, 2021). Biometric identity verification (COVID) selfies and COVID testing data were made public by the hackers. Also in March 2020, a party member in Guangxi recommended utilising pandemic monitoring to "look for persons that couldn't previously be located," thereby converting a health service together into surveillance instrument.

A new version of the "social credit system" were developed and used during the epidemic, alongside the Health Code application (Nelson, 2018). In order to identify trustworthy and untrustworthy persons and companies prior to the epidemic, the system was initially designed. Lower travelling costs were among the perks of getting good grades. "Good" and "Bad" behaviour were rewarded or punished using this system during the flu epidemic. According to research conducted by two Dutch academics, distributing medical goods at inflated prices, using counterfeit products, or breaking quarantine were mostly grounds for punishment. People who engage in this type of behaviour risk being blacklisted, that might prevent them from travelling or even serving as a government employee, among many other limitations.

As predicted, Chinese technology corporations, such as Alibaba as well as Tencent, have had a significant influence on the health code. A few years back, Alibaba and Tencent supplied not only portals for e-commerce, but it also aspects of social networking, virtual money and digital payments (Nelson, 2018). Variety of financial products including fundamental public services were also given by these two companies throughout this time. With the capacity to reshape lives, these important services acquire a massive quantity of personal information from their customers (Chifu, 2021). Health code development is increasingly blurring the public-private divide in China because of its tight partnership with Chinese government as well as digital platforms, which have already been incorporated into state administration. The absence of scepticism and criticism directed at Chinese internet businesses' digital products may also be a contributing factor to China's public-private partnership and secrecy (Jee, 2021).

To what extent are these actions technically essential and intended to combat the virus, or are they being taken to address the epidemic's perceived and actual societal consequences? With the use of human-powered monitoring and control methods, the health code would be a technology that may be used to manage and order people's movements and activities.Social ordering as well as population monitoring system, besides just contact tracing, strengthens the disciplinary authority of both formal and informal authorities by rendering the health of people as well the population visible and quantifiable. Whereas "Technological empowerment," on the other hand, is complicated since it is a tech which is influenced by diverse power connections and becomes somewhat unruly. New legislative attempts to control the health code and adequately safeguard individual privacy and security data have been prompted by this unruliness, but these efforts do not challenge the techno solutionist presupposition of said health code as well as its consequences for state authority (Kui, 2021).

Some of these new capabilities will be retained by China's top administrative government institution, the State Council, and incorporated into the country's overall surveillance strategy (Lee & Kim, 2021). In the long run, this might lead to more stringent monitoring of citizens. "Function creep" refers to the practise of utilising a surveillance system for a certain reason but then expanding its scope to include additional uses. Big data is being used in China to maintain the COVID-19 epidemic within control by monitoring people's COVID-19 status as well as movements across the nation. Despite recent outbreaks in eastern China, the Chinese govt has been relatively effective in this regard.

According to several studies, China does not have a solid security and privacy framework (Feng, 2019). Similar worries about data privacy and security in liberal democracies, including such waging "the people's war," are not discussed in China because of the collectivism rhetoric. Privacy in China is viewed as a civil right rather than a political one, therefore current legal efforts to safeguard personal information including individual privacy might be one of the self-justifying measures that link digital technology with the govt's authority to regulate (Yang et al., 2020).
There are indeed worries about the effectiveness of these apps, in addition to the obstacles and data security risks. First and foremost, it will be difficult to accurately gather the data of every resident. There is a high probability of dishonesty if the data is input by individuals themselves, which might result in erroneous data and inappropriate policy. Trace applications are more successful when they are inclusive. Digital technology has transformed the world, yet many individuals have yet to embrace it (Yi et al., 2021). The elderly are a fantastic illustration of this. Smartphones are the driving force behind the adoption and deployment of these tracing applications. Since the elderly comprise a significant portion of the population, this might result in a gap in the plan. In current age, there is a lack of interest in smartphones that use this operating system. It would be a huge mistake to leave out China's most vulnerable citizens, the elderly people, who make up only 23% of the country's population, from the country's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). If the government decides to transfer services online, it will be an issue for individuals who aren't tech-savvy. As a result of the public's worries about trace applications' efficiency and safety, their usage and success were stymied across the world. China, Canada, as well as Syria's governments are among those who have expressed concerns about data mining. Even more questions are raised by the inability to incorporate everyone, along with the elderly and others who are not at all tech-savvy (Yi et al., 2021).

The issue regarding trace apps has political implications as well. For the most part, the contact tracing applications have been handled by government-sponsored parastatals. As a result, the data obtained may be used for reasons other than those for which it was acquired. There have been reports that a spyware called "contact trace app" has been found in Syria, where the government is claimed to be pursuing its interests in the civil conflict. Additionally, the cluster of terms "elder" and "service" shows that a government that serves its citizens rather than governs them is evident. There is an increasing split between China's expanding aged population and those who lack cell phones or the ability to utilise health QR codes, making it practically difficult for them to go by public transit. To put it another way, the cultural and social context of China's tolerance of state monitoring is distinct from Western ideas as well as ideals based on the protection of individual freedoms and liberties (Yang et al., 2020).

To summarize, for large-scale administrative ordering, "legibility and simplicity" must be achieved through the use of the health code. Individual internalisation of the health code is coupled with a top-down, institutional imposition of said code in order to make the people and society more manipulable in order to control the pandemic and its related social uncertainties. By making personal and community health visible, as well as meshing altogether government surveillance and fundamental public service provisioning, the Chinese health code simultaneously shows and enables the change of governance—governance "enabled" through digital technologies—in contemporary Chinese society. It is hard and deceptive to measure the utility and efficacy of this technologies in terms of viral identification and tracking since it is used to rule the population or even society. Technology that can collect and analyse data about individuals is inherently political by definition. Surveillance technologies, unlike many other technological devices, have the power to control and limit people's lives, liberties, and freedom. As a result, they must be regulated.

Bernot, A. (2021, July 31). China’s “surveillance creep”: How big data COVID-19 monitoring could be used to control people post-pandemic.; DTE.
Chifu, I. (2021). US-CHINA COMPLEXITY: DEFINING THE POST-COVID-19 PANDEMIC WORLD. STRATEGIES XXI - Security and Defense Faculty, 17(1), 96–103.
Jee, Y. (2021). Global Perspectives: The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020?2021 and Beyond. China CDC Weekly, 3(7), 142–143.
Kui, S. (2021).The Stumbling Balance between Public Health and Privacy amid the Pandemic in China.The Chinese Journal of Comparative Law.
Lee, U., & Kim, A. (2021). Benefits of Mobile Contact Tracing on COVID-19: Tracing Capacity Perspectives.Information technology assignmentFrontiers in Public Health, 9. Nelson, D. (2018). China Invests In Social Credit System That Ranks Citizen Trustworthiness, Could End Up Splitting The Internet In The Next Decade. Science Trends.

Yang, Y., Baik, J. S., Ahn, S. Y., & Jang, E. (2020). Tracing Digital Contact Tracing: Surveillance Technology and Privacy Rights During COVID-19 in China, South Korea, and the United States. SSRN Electronic Journal.
Yi, S., Zhiwen, P., Nan, L., &Xiaohu, Y. (2021).Performance analysis of legitimate UAV surveillance system with suspicious relay and anti-surveillance technology.Digital Communications and Networks.


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