Freddy Gray Freddy Gray

Is the Isle of Wight really the best place to launch a tracing app?

Isle of Wight Cliffs (photo: Getty)

Technology can save the world — from South Korea to Singapore to, um, the Isle of Wight. Oh yes. Britain is catching up at super-fibre-optic-lightning speed with the superpowers of tech in its fight against Covid-19. We’ve developed a snazzy ‘track and trace’ app, that’s already been trialled at an RAF base in Yorkshire, and the government now intends to roll it out in a pilot scheme on the lovely Isle of Wight and the Scottish Isles, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce on Monday. Sod the threats to privacy and liberty — let’s get people-monitoring done!

One small problem — the internet on the Isle of Wight doesn’t really work. Mobile telephone reception is notoriously rubbish; so too is broadband. It’s a common gripe down here. I wonder if the government has even thought about that.

The island is thought to be an excellent control group for the tracing pilot because it is ‘self-contained’. Well, I’m currently sat in my mother-in-law’s house in Seaview, on the north coast of the island, looking out at Portsmouth, and I do feel pretty self-contained. There is almost no bloody phone reception. If I stay very still at the top of the building, I can sometimes make a call. Fraser, the Spectator editor, just rang my mobile to discuss something. He kept cutting out and I had to call him back on a landline (remember those?).

The WiFi here is frustrating to put it mildly. My mother-in-law, poor thing, has spent a small fortune trying to make it work. After several failures, she finally switched to a premium BT OpenReach service and that just about functions. Still, it went down early on during lockdown, and it took us 28 days to get an engineer to come, including three appointments where he just failed to show up.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in