INDEPENDENT NEWS

NZ chief science advisor 5G site not up to the job

Published: Mon 23 Dec 2019 02:58 PM
Good on the Professor Juliet Gerrard, the Prime Minister's chief science advisor, for setting up a web site to address 5G fears.
It counters much of the disinformation in circulation.
Sadly the presentation is awful. It is so poor that the message doesn't stand much chance of reaching ordinary folk.
Some of the campaigns and disinformation sites attempting to undermine the science are so much slicker.
Not engaging
Take a look at the home page. Web sites don't get much less engaging.
[caption id="attachment_41858" align="aligncenter" width="580"]
The Prime Minister's chief science advisor 5G site[/caption]
It has large blocks of text across a very wide measure. That makes it hard to read. While the text is broken up into blocks lower down the front page, there is a daunting slab of text to get through at the top.
The second paragraph is over 100 words long. You need a Year 12 reading age to comprehend the text. That's way too high, beyond the majority of readers. Even people are able to read such dense material, tend not to bother.
In other words it reads more like academic or government writing than, say, newspaper or magazine copy.
When official equals boring, unreadable
Now there is a case for this. It is, after all, an official government science response. Yet, it is up against disinformation campaigns that know exactly how to reach the target audience.
It's good that the designer1 uses links in another colour. This breaks up the blocks giving the reader's eye signposts as they wade through the dreary text.
Even the text chosen here is wrong. It should be larger, although I'm impressed that it uses a bold typeface, that helps with accessibility for readers with poor eyesight.
What we have here is important. The site contains the information people need. In places the language is clear enough. I like this part:
"The currently available scientific evidence makes it extremely unlikely that there will be any adverse effects on human or environmental health."
For a scientist it is reasonably tight. Although the journalist in me says this could also be clearer:
"Scientists think it is unlikely 5G will harm you or the environment".
Commercial alternative
Compare the chief science advisor's page with this page from Vodafone group out of the UK.
[caption id="attachment_41859" align="aligncenter" width="580"]
Vodafone 5G safety page from UK[/caption]
It's unambiguous, straight to the point and easy to read. Even though it gets technical and deep in places, it still does a better job of explaining the issues.
Of course, you might be thinking that it is one thing for a chief science advisor to tell the 5G safety story and another thing entirely for folk that are flogging the technology to tell the story. You'd be right.
Yet the New Zealand government could have made an important piece of public information more engaging. Look at Vodafone's 5G infographic below. It packs a lot of complex information into a simple, easy to understand image.
The funny thing is, New Zealand's often doesn't have this problem with other public information campaigns when it hires an advertising agency to get the message across. Maybe that's what's needed here.
[caption id="attachment_41861" align="aligncenter" width="580"]
Vodafone's 5G infographic makes an otherwise hard to explain concept easy to understand.[/caption]
I'm assuming it was designed and not just templated together, but I could be wrong about that.
NZ chief science advisor 5G site not up to the job was first posted at billbennett.co.nz.
Digitl
New Zealand technology news
Bill Bennett publishes technology news and features that are directly relevant to New Zealand readers.
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