At this juncture, to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted humanity would be an understatement. The fact, as we all know, is that the outbreak has transformed the world as we know it. From businesses shifting to remote working almost overnight to people spending months on end within their homes, the new reality is as bizarre as it is necessary.
If we zoom in to all the changes the world has gone through since the outbreak in early 2020, a sort of pattern emerges. Technology, it turns out, is at the center of the transformation from industries to lifestyles. As such, remote working technologies helped businesses work from home and social media networks kept us connected. More importantly, innovations in health-tech such as infrared thermometers and UV disinfection helped us identify and care for patients in a better and more efficient way. It goes without saying, then, that the impact of the pandemic would be exponentially higher than what it currently is in the absence of technology. On that note, here’s looking at some major ways in which technology is changing lives in the COVID-19 era.
Contact tracing and transparency
Informing the public with reliable data around the number of cases, recovery, and fatality rates in crucial during a pandemic. It is even more important when fake news is doing the rounds and instilling fear in individuals in a situation that is quite grim, to begin with. In such a scenario, governments can use individual data to carry out contact tracing – or making sure that anyone who came in contact with an infected individual is identified and given proper care – to break the chain of the virus. In India, the Aarogya Setu app is being used for exactly this purpose. Using data collection and analysis, the app can essentially calculate the number of cases in particular geography and encourage social distancing and similar measures in high-risk areas.
The COVID-19 pandemic witnessed what may be the largest collective shift to remote working in all of history. In the interest of social distancing, business across sectors switched to the work from home setup and this transition was hinged entirely on technology. For instance, remote working is enabled and made possible in a secure way with VPNs, cloud networks, and VoIP technology. Further, video conferencing tools, business collaboration software, and such information and communication technology (ICT) solutions were used to facilitate a smooth transition. Further, state-of-the-art laptops and high-speed wireless internet have bolstered work from home and made it not just a possibility but perhaps and long-term solution that can save time and money for organizations.
How many of us have spent the past few months streaming everything from movies to TV series to music? Truth be told, the lockdown period would have been excruciating without online entertainment avenues that have only elevated themselves in terms of quality and options over the past few years. Online gaming has also saved many individuals and families from hours of boredom every day. Again, we have top-quality laptops, 4G and 5G networks, and, of course, the myriad OTT platforms to thank for this.
Supply chains and contactless deliveries
Digital technologies have helped overcome the massive disruptions in global supply chains during the pandemic. E-commerce businesses, and even local stores that embraced the online selling model, have thrived through the crisis on the back of technologies such as IoT, Big Data and AI/ML that help predict the demand of particular products and allow businesses to stock up accordingly.
Furthermore, it is digital technology that allows organizations to enable contactless deliveries and payments to promote social distancing and contain the virus. From medication to groceries, we ordered everything online during the lockdown, and technology made it possible.
As of mid-April, 191 countries announced or implemented school or university closures, impacting 1.57 billion students. Many educational institutions started offering courses online to ensure education was not disrupted by quarantine measures. Technologies involved in distant learning are similar to those for remote work and also include virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, and artificial-intelligence-enabled robot teachers.
While there are some challenges regarding distance learning – socioeconomic differences that affect digital readiness, increase pressure on working parents, etc., – the creation of affordable technological solutions and data connections can help families overcome these challenges. Easy to use laptops and other devices can help students learn independently without added pressure on their parents.
Telehealth can be an effective way to contain the spread of COVID-19 while still providing essential primary care. Wearable personal IoT devices can track vital signs. Chatbots can make initial diagnoses based on symptoms identified by patients. However, in countries where medical costs are high, it’s important to ensure telehealth will be covered by insurance. Telehealth also requires a certain level of tech literacy to operate, as well as a good internet connection.
As people find their comfort zones in the new normal, many changes that the world has undergone during this time will never be reversed regardless of the pandemic. Online shopping, OTT entertainment, online gaming, remote working may all see steady growth even beyond the pandemic. With technology in the driver’s seat, it is safe to say that humanity is in for an exciting ride.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.