Technology won’t solve all of the challenges presented by the spread of COVID-19, but it will alleviate some big obstacles.
While the necessary measures of shutting down communities and suspending gatherings will have a devastating economic impact on some industries, others will continue on, albeit in an altered state. They can minimize disruption and power work from home so their companies don’t come to a standstill. Technology makes that possible.
Technology built on a robust communications network is delivering continuity in ways that simply would not have been possible 10 years ago.
Here are just some examples of how technology is helping:
Large scale work from home and remote collaboration. Though less than 4% of workers worked remotely full time before the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now seeing how effective working from home can be on a much larger scale across a variety of industries. Collaboration tools from Zoom to Slack to Microsoft Teams, shared documents, VPNs, and more enable distant team members to work together.
Online K-12 and college classes. Some are using online learning platforms, some are using Google Classroom or even just YouTube. But the real challenge is connectivity and equity for students who don’t have internet access at home. While just 4% of students were enrolled exclusively in distance learning courses in higher ed, now it’s every college student at a number of major universities.
Telehealth services, intervention, monitoring. Doctors can assess patients and track symptoms remotely using telehealth options, and CMS even announced an expansion of Medicare telehealth services to help fight the virus. A number of apps also offer doctor visits to the uninsured. Two challenges remain: capacity and access.
Global community engagement and communication via social networks. Doctors are using Facebook Groups to ask questions and share advice for how to handle the pandemic. Sharing of news, memes, and ideas for how to help during the crisis has given the general public an outlet for their creativity and need to connect. Brands have been using social media to stay connected to their customers and suggest ways to support local businesses during the crisis.
Bringing gym training sessions into the home. Gyms are hosting classes in everything from meditation to yoga to strength training and more, broadcast over Zoom and other platforms.
Virtual tours. Dozens of museums around the world have free online tours of their exhibits. Zoos and aquariums are offering live feeds of their animals. Even theme parks have virtual tours of their attractions.
Technology has also been crucial in fighting the virus. Doctors, scientists, and government officials have been utilizing data to track and monitor the spread of COVID-19 and disseminate that knowledge on a global scale. Health experts and governments have been learning in real time and using data to model what will happen to health systems if practices to flatten the curve are not enacted.
The confluence of technology, communications, and data is helping humanity to understand, plan, and react faster than in the past. It should be reassuring that we are quickly learning about the origins of the virus, tracking its spread across the globe, and evaluating the effectiveness of other countries’ responses. All of that is informing proactive measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Technology, of course, can’t solve every problem. Plenty of industries and workers are hurting right now, and technology won’t help. But it is aiding progress in fighting the spread of the virus and has softened the blow that social distancing and business closures have had on the economy. When we get to the other side of this crisis, hopefully technology will help get every industry back up to speed.
Stay safe, keep calm, and don’t forget to wash your hands.