Undoubtedly, thanks to modern technologies, a much larger percentage of the global population have maintained the ability to work and earn a living in the last few months. It was quite a challenge as almost every industry has been hit by the current crisis and – as a result – was forced to quickly adapt to the “new” world. Technologies have surely become a critical factor in coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has brought the two most important challenges that all countries had to face. Firstly, they had to organize to fight the virus, and secondly – they had to navigate the enormous economic and social disruption that the virus has brought along. In both cases, the world has witnessed (and is still observing!) an accelerated shift to digital technologies and services. And such a change can have a long-lasting impact even beyond COVID-19.
Fighting the virus
Suppressing the virus has become the first and most important goal. Until the researchers around the world create a vaccine that will bring a permanent end to the coronavirus pandemic, there is an urgent need for treatments and solutions that would prevent potentially life-threatening conditions. Surely, the issue of mass-testing is essential in order to return to a state of normality by easing widespread lockdowns and social-distancing measures. Technology can help to scale-up testing capabilities as new digital tools will become vital to supporting the delivery of community testing on a large-scale. Besides, there are many applications of technology that are helpful in fighting the virus. In fact, technology can support everything from searching for equipment suppliers and distributing medicines quickly, to 3D printers. The latter has turned out to be crucial in emergency situations when the supplies of protective gear, masks, or valves for ventilators are running low.
If anything, so far the COVID-19 outbreak has proved one thing: many of us are able to work from home effectively. It is not something that we would have previously believed in, is it? In the world of necessary social distancing, a lot of workers are learning new tools and new ways of getting their jobs done. We are no longer tied to our office desktops and many day-to-day business functions can be carried out easily with portable devices like laptops, tablets, and even smartphones.
Companies have been made to power distance working by investing in conferencing and communication tools. In fact, Zoom, Teams, and Slack have become the most commonly used words in many households around the world. Remote work has been enabled by virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocols (VoIPs), virtual meetings, work collaboration tools, and even facial recognition technologies. Many businesses have introduced integrated, cloud-based software solutions that allow them to run their businesses from virtually anywhere. These solutions, including everything from web-based project and document management solutions to virtual chat and networking programs, enable running a company in secure cloud environments and provide the tools needed to easily access and share data, automate workflows and communicate in real-time.
SolDevelo had to face with remote working as well. Here is how we handled it: How does the SolDevelo team deal with remote working
Learning from home
Throughout history, the education sector in many countries has been probably the most resistant to change. Looking at the current crisis from this perspective, it seems that the COVID-19 could only change it for the better.
According to the statistics, over 1.2 billion children globally have been out of the classroom due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. Because of that, laptop screens have turned into classrooms where students and teachers can see and question each other in collaborative online learning. Technologies involved in distant learning are similar to those for remote work and include mostly Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classroom. Depending on the country’s technological advancement and school resources, there could also be other solutions involved, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, and AI-enabled robot teachers.
Obviously, an unplanned and rapid move to online learning may have its cons as well. It is enough to mention the lack of training on the part of schools’ staff, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation. However, it is believed that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education. It would be great if traditional offline learning and e-learning could go hand by hand, wouldn’t it?
Future of healthcare
The coronavirus outbreak caused a revolution in the way health services are delivered. In order to protect patients and health workers and stop the spread of the virus, health care providers have been encouraged to adopt and use telehealth in appropriate situations, like e.g. routine health care or medication consultations. Again, commonly used apps (including FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype) have come in handy in conducting remote appointments and follow-ups. And they have served their function quite well. As a result, further development of telehealth technology may be expected – in the form of secure video appointments, secure messaging systems, online appointment scheduling systems as well as online prescribing, billing, and payment systems.
Additionally, more and more health-related activities can be supported by data and AI algorithms. As nowadays AI is sophisticated enough to understand conversational nuance and sound like a real person, AI-based communication is becoming an increasingly popular element of healthcare software platforms (for medical surveys, making appointments, and data management). The revolution is also being observed in health monitoring. It can be conducted remotely and in real-time, with the use of wearable devices, IoT sensors, smartphones or multiple micro biosensors. It offers opportunities for gathering crucial data and improves reaction times to changes in patients’ conditions.
What is more, after the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals’ dependency on reliable supply chains has been made clearer than ever. The access to automated supply solutions and same-day delivery turned out to be essential – ensuring that the necessary equipment, medicine, and samples will always be available when they are needed. A great example of such a solution is one of the most important projects that SolDevelo co-created – OpenLMIS. It is an open-source logistics management information system that serves over 11,000 health facilities across Africa. Re-created for the needs of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it helps to better manage the tracking and ordering of epidemic-related products in low-resource environments. More about this project you will find here:
One thing is sure: COVID-19 has made people around the world change their shopping habits. It has transformed online shopping from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’. However, online shopping does not perform its protective and virus-proof role unless it is supported by contactless digital payments (either in the form of cards or e-wallets) and an effective logistics system. That is the reason why contactless delivery methods have grown in popularity. In China, delivery companies have been using code-controlled lockers, mini-stations outside of residential compounds to pick up and send packages as well as drones or autonomous robots. And although the latter is still in a relatively early stage of development and has a way to go to achieve operation at scale, they are surely the future. Robots can not only help to deliver packages but also be deployed in other scenarios – e.g. to serve as a smart restaurant waiter, coffee delivery machine, or a fire warning device. Can you imagine that? It seems that we are slowly starting to see steps towards reality for a sci-fi scenario!
It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a tremendous long-term impact on societies around the globe. One of the most important areas where we are bound to see its effects is the future of technology. Our current circumstances will surely lead many companies to build the necessary infrastructure to support a “new” digitized world. Post-COVID-19 reality will be different in many aspects and following the latest technology will be essential for any business or country to remain competitive in the times to come.