[community] Is COVID Alert an Inclusive Design Fail?

Jutta Treviranus jtreviranus at ocadu.ca
Thu Aug 6 02:08:52 UTC 2020

I can offer articles from leading scientists pointing out why RCT is not appropriate for these scenarios. This should be apparent in the case of COVID-19 as we are not attempting to reach only the average but also the most vulnerable.

Regarding the first issue, if it is ineffective for the most vulnerable it will be a waste of money no matter how affordable it is.


On Aug 5, 2020, at 9:16 PM, John W (personal) <pickupwillis at gmail.com<mailto:pickupwillis at gmail.com>> wrote:

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It cannot be emphasized enough that inclusive design means a real culture shift. It's not just a method or approach - though that it is -- but a mindset.

In service design for human services, we confront two significant cultural dynamics taht work AGAINST inclusive design:

- first, the aim of design is not always the optimal design for those who are using the service. Instead it is usually aimed at optimizing design for the provider, so the 'right' design is the affordable design - not the most inclusive. Although this is a 'real-politik' kind of statement, I think there is a very important theoretical and research topic here -- to what extent can the design of systems satisfy all stakeholders equally, or equitably? Inclusive design aims for better results in terms of the experience of end-users, but does that reflect a bias rooted in product design as opposed to services? In services, other stakeholders are very critical to overall design success, so their interests matter, even though they may be trite, short-sighted or downright wrong-headed.

- secondly, we are still living in the era of fascination with randomized control l trails (RCT)  to 'prove' efficacy in services or business models. RCT is inherently based on statistical averaging and the logic that some must be sacrificed fro the good of the average. This is not a mistake, it's quite explicit and based on the belief that only economo-metric and statistical evidence is real. Thus we have RCT for employment services for people with disabilities, RCT for emergency-room visitors, RCT for young people needing housing and counselling, etc. In this environment, which I can attest is alive and well in the Ontario government, we are prototyping a wide variety of solutions to service delivery problems in social assistance - but with the goal being to select those few that add up to a model capable of being run through RCT. Prototype evaluation is explicitly subject to the conditions needed for RCT, so the tornado is converted to the competitive slectiion process anyway.

I don't mean to be cynical, just reporting what is going on.

I would welcome opportunities to learn more about prototype evaluation in service design in a way that helps me continue the mission of inclusive design within these restrictions.

Any courses coming up you think I should sign up for? :-) Any dialogues at IDRC on these topics I can join?

thanks all,

On Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 2:17 PM Jutta Treviranus <jtreviranus at ocadu.ca<mailto:jtreviranus at ocadu.ca>> wrote:
Thank you Ushnish for the thoughtful approach.

I wanted to add some considerations and clarifications.

Two of the distinctions between Design Thinking and Inclusive Design, as we conceive it at the IDRC, are 1) the logic model or process and 2) the methods of considering the needs of the 'end user.”

The difference is most striking in the process diagrams. Design Thinking has the famous squiggle that iteratively results in a winning design through a series of competitive processes, https://thedesignsquiggle.com/. In Inclusive Design we use a Virtuous Tornado which also iterates through full cycles that include prototype evaluation, but rather than narrowing down to a winning solution, we cycle out, in that we create a system that is capable of stretching to address more and more needs in each iteration.  See https://guide.inclusivedesign.ca/activities/VirtuousTornado.html and https://medium.com/@jutta.trevira/inclusive-design-the-bell-curve-the-starburst-and-the-virtuous-tornado-6094f797b1bf

We have discovered that there is no fix, solution, winning or best design when you are attempting to be inclusive. People with minority needs always lose out when the process is competitive. The current complex adaptive system we operate in also means that you need a system that can respond and adapt. Hence encompassing more needs in your system also supports greater flexibility in the underlying architecture.

(As a side note, many Design Thinking initiatives (e.g., IDEO) and Inclusive Design aim to "design for good". However, in Inclusive Design we feel that for any design to survive it must be integrated into standard mainstream practices or it won’t survive or interoperate. Inclusive Design is not about charity but about culture change for the benefit of the individuals currently excluded and the system as a whole.)

The second distinction is about how to and who to include in the design process. We feel that it is most important to include people who have difficulty or can’t use current designs. That is how we innovate; and surface and address unexpected issues. I have found that user research (especially statistical analysis that determines an average), persona, and identity-based representation can lead to a false notion of knowing what is needed or a false confidence. I find that only by actively engaging people that have been excluded by existing designs, or people that are most likely to be excluded by the design you are working on, can you really understand the spectrum of needs and how to address the needs  (designing with not for, "nothing about us without us"). By active engagement of people with lived experience of the barriers, I mean right from the beginning, with the problem statement. There are many instances where our understanding of the problem has become deeper and more fundamental when we have done this.

I’d love to explain further and I’d love your thoughts.


> On Aug 4, 2020, at 7:08 PM, Ushnish Sengupta <ushnish.sengupta at gmail.com<mailto:ushnish.sengupta at gmail.com>> wrote:
> Hi John
> The primary data I know of answering some of the questions you raised is
> Statistics Canada Internet Use surveys.
> I have been thinking about inclusion/exclusion and Contact Tracing Apps, so
> a medium length response the original question "Is COVID Alert an Inclusive
> Design Fail?" follows.
> IMHO the project is an inclusive design failure on a number of levels:
> 1) The first release failed to account for the spectrum of the digital
> divide in terms of not everyone having the most recent phone and OS.
> -Would be more transparent if they announced the plan or the roadmap to
> address this issue, but no such plans/roadmap isv publicly available to my
> knowledge
> 2) The project failed to account for WHO would be excluded for the current
> app as released, particularly senior citizens and low income individuals,
> not coincidentally the groups with disproportionally higher rates of
> Covid19 cases and deathsU
> 3) Given that many accessibility technologies take time to "catch up" to
> the latest phone hardware and software releases, and additionally given
> that many senior citizens have disabilities, I would infer that this first
> release of the contact tracing app discriminates against people with
> disabilities, as a disproportionately LOW number of people with
> disabilities will be able to effectively access, download and use the app,
> exposing people with disabilities to greater Covid19 risks.
> Solutions
> 1) Design Thinking
> Part of the solution is applying Design Thinking ensuring we identify the
> appropriate stakeholders and user groups, create empathy maps, ensure each
> different identified groups needs are met and follow through with the other
> Design Thinking steps. I know there are many Design Thinking fans on this
> list and within the groups that created the app, including Ontario Digital
> Services, Shopify etc., and I am a fan of Design Thinking as well, but for
> me Design Thinking is a *necessary but insufficient *process in developing
> a contact tracing app for a broad country wide population.
> 2) Cognitive diversity on Project Team
> I teach my Project Management and Information Systems students, what is
> often missing in technology projects is the right mix of people on the
> project team, to avoid what happened here.
> If a government department or a private company or a combination of both
> are designing an app for the ENTIRE Canadian population they need to have
> people on the project team that have the COGNITIVE DIVERSITY to understand
> the following issues are relevant to the project:
> 1) There is a phone technology based digital divide, its not a binary
> have/have not issue, its a spectrum of access issue including type of
> device, age of devices, operating system, cost etc.
> In particular the digital divide involves low income and age factors, so at
> a minimum the project team has to include people who can perform a
> Socio-Economic Class and Ageism analysis.
> 2). The Covid19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted senior citizens in
> long term care homes, as well as racialized low income communities, so any
> technology implemented to combat the pandemic has to take this
> disproportionality into account, and the technology selected, designed, and
> implemented has to be appropriate for these specific groups.
> Unfortunately the demographic of the developers of Contact Tracing apps
> tend not to match the demographics of those most negatively affected by
> either Covid19 or the implementation of the app.  The developers tend to be
> early adopters of technology having the latest phones, and have limited
> lived knowledge/experience of the digital divide. The app developers also
> tend to be younger and have no lived experience of technology access issues
> for senior citizens.  So is the solution just throw in a couple of people
> with these specific lived experiences onto the project team?
> Not necessarily, whats important is having team members be cognizant of,
> and able to recognize the issues of the digital divide, agesim, and ableism
> which comes often from lived experience, but also from training and
> education on these frames of analysis, something that was missing in this
> project.  We need to have people that can recognize these issues on the
> project team from the start to avoid or mitigate them.
> p.s. I am going to write a coherent blog post out of this at some point, so
> comments including critiques are welcome.
> Ushnish
> On Tue, Aug 4, 2020 at 6:28 PM John Willis <pickupwillis at gmail.com<mailto:pickupwillis at gmail.com>> wrote:
>> Thanks Roland, Michael., Justin for your great responses – this has
>> enlightened me and I really appreciate it.
>> Working in the area of social assistance and digital transformation, there
>> are a lot of assumptions being made in government about the spread of
>> digital technology and its ubiquity in low income communities. While it is
>> obvious that in urban areas most people now have a smart phone, the
>> variation in operating systems and how old they are, not to mention the
>> difficulty of Wi-Fi access in more rural areas, makes the situation far
>> more complicated
>> Does anyone know of any quantitative analysis in Ontario or Canada of low
>> income families and individuals and their specific digital access?
>> Thanks
>> John D. Willis
>> Design & innovation in Public Services
>>> On Aug 4, 2020, at 17:21, Roland Van Oostveen <
>> ROLAND.VANOOSTVEEN at uoit.ca<mailto:ROLAND.VANOOSTVEEN at uoit.ca>> wrote:
>>> When I heard this report I immediately thought that the failure to
>> install on older platforms might be due to the use of BlueTooth technology
>> (for security purposes) that allows the app to work in the first place. If
>> it could be installed on older mobile OSs but couldn’t do what it is
>> supposed to, where would that get us. This is similar to the issues that MS
>> had with Windows and support for all of the older equipment. Eventually
>> even MS got to the point where obsolescence is built into the OS, I.e.,
>> nobody can run Windows95 anymore.
>>> Roland
>>> Roland van Oostveen
>>> Director, BA in ESDT Programs
>>> Associate Professor - Faculty of Education
>>> Ontario Tech University
>>> 905.721.8668 ext. 2657
>>> 905.767.5993 (cell)
>>> roland.vanoostveen at uoit.ca<mailto:roland.vanoostveen at uoit.ca><mailto:roland.vanOostveen at uoit.ca<mailto:roland.vanOostveen at uoit.ca>>
>>> ontariotechu.ca<http://ontariotechu.ca/><http://ontariotechu.ca<http://ontariotechu.ca/>>
>>> [Ontario Tech University logo]<https://ontariotechu.ca/>
>>> [Twitter icon]<https://twitter.com/rolandvo>
>>> [LinkedIn icon]<https://linkedin.com/in/roland.vanoostveen@uoit.ca>
>>> Ontario Tech University is the brand name used to refer to the
>> University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
>>> The university is proud to acknowledge the lands and people of the
>> Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation which is covered under the
>> Williams Treaties. We are situated on the Traditional Territory of the
>> Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation which includes
>> Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi.
>>> Sent from Mail for Windows 10
>>> From: John W (personal)<mailto:pickupwillis at gmail.com<mailto:pickupwillis at gmail.com>>
>>> Sent: August 4, 2020 4:39 PM
>>> To: Inclusive Design Community<mailto:community at lists.idrc.ocadu.ca<mailto:community at lists.idrc.ocadu.ca>>
>>> Subject: [community] Is COVID Alert an Inclusive Design Fail?
>>> the new Covid Alert app just released in Ontario apparently requires
>> users
>>> to have the latest device / software, leaving low-income and more
>>> marginalized folks -- aka people most likely to contract the virus -- out
>>> of the loop.
>>> I verified this myself yesterday when I could not install it to my
>> iPhone 6
>>> because it requires iOS 13.5
>>> WTF? is this an inclusive design fail of top ranking, or can someone with
>>> greater technical knowledge dismiss my budding outrage?
>>> maybe it's just an MVP, okay - but surely the communication on this is
>>> feeble and misguided because word is already out that it's for the
>>> privileged few. Sheesh!
>>> j
>>> --
>>> *John D. Willis | CE CAIP MDes*
>>> Design & Innovation in Public Services
>>> Toronto CANADA
>>> Garbled text? My apologies - speech-to-text technology is still a work in
>>> progress...
>>> ________________________________________
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John D. Willis | CE CAIP MDes
Design & Innovation in Public Services
Toronto CANADA

Garbled text? My apologies - speech-to-text technology is still a work in progress...

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