CANBERRA, Australia: On November 8, the network of Australia’s second-largest internet provider, Optus, went down nationwide, leaving some 40 percent of Australians without phone or internet services.
The nine-hour outage meant that millions of Australians could not pay for goods, book rides, get medical care or make phone calls, highlighting the risks of moving almost completely online.
According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, in the three years to 2022, cash transactions in the country halved to 16 percent as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions drove a long-term trend towards a “cashless society.”
Government data also showed that some 25 percent of the doctor appointments in Australia are made online or by phone.
Michael Clements, rural chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said, “We are now so very reliant, because of COVID-19, on telehealth and also electronic messaging systems.”
Roderick Geddes, the owner of Pirrama Park Kiosk in Sydney, which was unable to process electronic payments, said, “We are a A$4,000-A$5,000 ($2,600-$3,200) a day business, and we have lost about A$1,000 in coffee sales this morning.”
Owned by Singapore Telecommunications, Optus said it was investigating the outage but gave no reasons for it. Most of the company’s services were restored by the afternoon.