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Vaccine booking website causes confusion with some regional Australians told to head interstate | Society

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Those in Port Hedland, Western Australia, were told the closest clinic was a six-hour drive away in Broome. Residents of Karratha were also told to make the drive to Broome, which would take eight hours and 20 minutes.


A screenshot from the government’s vaccination booking website showing the closest Covid-19 vaccination clinics for Port Hedland, West Australia. The results currently tell users their closest vaccine clinic is in Broome, a six-hour drive away. Photograph: Australian government vaccination site

Even then, the website says the only available clinic in Broome is the local Aboriginal Medical Service.

In Esperance, Western Australia, residents were told by the website that the closest clinic was in Boulder, a four hour drive away.

Residents of Mount Gambier, South Australia, were told the closest clinic participating in the Covid-19 rollout is across the state border in Portland, Victoria, a drive of one hour and 20 minutes.


A screenshot from the government’s vaccination booking website showing the closest Covid-19 vaccination clinics for Mount Gambier, South Australia. The results currently tell users their closest vaccine clinic is across the border in Victoria, a drive of one hour and 18 minutes. Photograph: Australian government vaccination site

The problem is the result of a combination of factors. In some regional areas, the commonwealth simply has not yet activated GP clinics to participate in the vaccine rollout. That is expected to occur in coming weeks, but there is no indication on the website that another 3,000 GPs are soon to be activated.

The government’s website also does not appear to take into account the existence of state-run vaccination clinics being set up in regional towns, like Katherine and Esperance, or local hospitals that may have some involvement in the vaccination program.

The absence of such critical information comes at a time of huge demand for the website, triggered by Wednesday’s government announcement.

A spokesperson for the health department said roughly 1,000 new GP clinics will be joining the program each week, which would increase coverage and availability across the country.

Further access will also be granted through 100 respiratory clinics and Aboriginal community-controlled health services, which are not currently showing up on the website.

State-run clinics have so far been prioritising phase 1a patients and workers, but will soon begin servicing the phase 1b cohort, and will then appear on the website, the spokesperson said.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid told the Guardian there will be a limited supply for rural and regional practices initially, and that the first week of the 1b rollout “will look very urban”.

Khorshid was also critical that the government’s national vaccine booking system did not list all clinics participating in the rollout, and called for the government to update the website to incorporate state-run facilities to avoid regional Australians driving hours further for a vaccine than necessary.

“They tend to concentrate on their own level of government, but the states are administering vaccines at their own centres,” Khorshid said.

He said the government’s communication – which the AMA criticised in a joint statement with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) earlier this week – needed to be “regional specific” to avoid current confusion.

“At the end of the day we need to get the vaccine to every Australian,” he said.

Opposition health spokesperson Mark Butler told the Guardian “the chaotic vaccine rollout needs to get back on track”.

“There needs to be clearer information for regional Australians about how, when and where they can access the vaccine,” Butler said.

Rural Doctors Association president John Hall said the website had clearly experienced “teething problems” and that the government had “pulled the trigger too early”. He said he would raise the issue identified by the Guardian with government.

“That’s certainly something to feed back. We do know there’s been a few teething problems with this rollout this week, where the portal came online and was directing people to clinics and phone lines that weren’t live yet, and couldn’t book,” he said.

But Hall said he didn’t want to be too critical of government, given the huge logistical challenge it faced. He said after Friday afternoon’s meeting with the prime minister and health minister, he was confident that there won’t be gaps in regional delivery of the vaccines.

Hall said he was also reassured that the government was addressing communication issues with GPs, through regular fact sheets, a new 1800 phone number, more regular meetings with government, and $5m in funding for GP and staff mental health.

Concerns about the regional rollout follow the troubled launch of the government’s national vaccine booking website.

On Tuesday, before the vaccine booking website launched, the RACGP and the AMA were among those warning GPs were “ill-equipped” for the vaccine rollout because clinics hadn’t received information about their doses and delivery dates.

The government launched the national vaccine booking website on Wednesday morning, and it encountered significant issues almost immediately. The website didn’t offer online booking for most clinics, instead instructing eligible vaccine recipients to call the practice.

This meant receptionists were “inundated” with callers, according to the AMA and RACGP, with most forced to reject older Australians trying to book their vaccines because they were unsure of their supplies. Many clinics have limited their initial vaccine appointments to existing patients.

Industry insiders later accused the government of launching the website before medical booking platform providers were told to prepare their services, despite health minister Greg Hunt insisting he had always planned for the website to go live on Wednesday.

The government has called for patience in the initial phases of the 1b rollout, especially before locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines are distributed and significantly increase supplies. The Guardian understands the first locally produced vaccines will leave CSL’s Melbourne factory for delivery by early next week.

The Guardian contacted Greg Hunt for clarification on the regional rollout.

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Amazon Web Services outage hits sites and apps such as IMDb and Tinder | Amazon

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Several Amazon services – including its website, Prime Video and applications that use Amazon Web Services (AWS) – went down for thousands of users on Tuesday.

Amazon said the outage was probably due to problems related to application programming interface (API), which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software, Reuters reported.

“We are experiencing API and console issues in the US-East-1 Region,” Amazon said in a report on its service health dashboard, adding that it had identified the cause. By late late afternoon the outage appeared to be partially resolved, with the company saying that it was “working towards full recovery”.

“With the network device issues resolved, we are now working towards recovery of any impaired services,” the company said on the dashboard.

Downdetector showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting problems with Amazon. It tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

The outage was also affecting delivery operations. Amazon’s warehouse operation use AWS and experienced disruptions, spokesperson Richard Rocha told the Washington Post. A Washington state Amazon driver said his facility had been “at a standstill” since Tuesday morning, CNBC reported.

Other services, including Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot were also facing difficulties, according to their social media pages.

Ring said it was aware of the issue and working to resolve it. “A major Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage is currently impacting our iRobot Home App,” iRobot said on its website.

Other websites and apps affected include the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), language learning provider Duolingo and dating site Tinder, according to Downdetector.

The outage also affected presale tickets for Adele’s upcoming performances in Las Vegas. “Due to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage impacting companies globally, all Adele Verified Fan Presales scheduled for today have been moved to tomorrow to ensure a better experience,” Ticketmaster said on Twitter.

In June, websites including the Guardian, Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times were hit by a widespread hour-long outage linked to US-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc, a smaller rival of AWS.

In July, Amazon experienced a disruption in its online stores service, which lasted for nearly two hours and affected more than 38,000 users.

Users have experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months on Amazon, according to the web tool reviewing website ToolTester.

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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

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As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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