Imagine that we have to stay at home because there is a pandemic over the world and there is a requirement for social isolation. It's not hard to imagine, is it? Now imagine that you should do the same, but without the high-speed internet, social networks, video chat applications, online stores and all other digital services that have been so useful in recent weeks.
What if the pandemic had happened fifteen years ago? At a time when e-commerce was still in its infancy, there were no online tools like Zoom and Teams, or they were not as well developed. E-learning was only a wishful thinking, and sites like Ucha.se (I.learn) did not yet exist. Not to even mention ordering food online from platforms such as eBag.
The world was very lucky that the first pandemic in many generations occurred years after the Internet revolution. This timing has allowed many of us today to work from home, make appointments online, shop online and even teach their children virtually via video connection with their teachers. If we had to go through the challenge of isolation without all these technologies, we would have had great difficulty in keeping ourselves informed, communicating with each other, working and learning, and the damage to the economy would have been incomparably greater.
This is the first pandemic in history in which isolation is ensured by the availability of many digital solutions for communication, business, education and even entertainment. As a result, today a huge number of companies around the world were able to easily or with some difficulties move their work online and keep their business or part of it. Team meetings, seminars, and even entire press conferences are already being made in video chat applications, and the current joke is " How were we supposed to know that all those meetings could actually have been just emails and phone calls." Companies that have been working on this principle for years have not changed their workflow at all.
The effect on the economy
from this change is huge. Yes - in some industries, such as the restaurant and hotel industry, there was no way to benefit from this digitalisation. But in hundreds of other cases, it has helped businesses to keep going and saved jobs. Many retail outlets with an online store have managed to maintain much of their turnover by redirecting them through the network. Other fully online based businesses are seeing sales growth.
It's not just about business. We already have legal cases litigated through Skype, and in the US, such platforms are already being used for marriages. Even the oldest parliament in the world - the one of the UK - has recently started sitting partially online, allowing most MPs to ask questions via video. Meanwhile, streaming platforms such as Netflix have received new recognition - the American Film Academy has for the first time allowed Oscars to nominate films that have not been released in theaters. Digitalisation has allowed entire governments to sit effectively, institutions to do their work without physical contact, children to learn, and all of us to have fun in isolation.
Which technologies were not developed in time
The Internet revolution happened at the right time to help us during the pandemic. However, a number of other innovations did not come soon enough and would have also had a positive effect in the current situation. If we already had drone deliveries, this would have further reduced contacts and the risk of spreading infections. The same applies if robots have been used to service people in shops and establishments. IoT (Internet of Things) also did not enter quickly enough, but could have helped remotely monitor and manage facilities in factories, utility systems and buildings, saving in many cases the need for physical contact.
Another technology that has not yet become common, but could have been of great benefit, are 3D printers. They could have given us more independence - to create the items we need locally, regardless of whether the production of the product has stopped, whether its delivery was currently impossible, or the store was closed due to the pandemic. It is a good idea, for example, for each hospital to have 3D printers in the future, through which it can urgently create its own helmets, masks and other necessary tools.
Without purposefully looking for this effect, technology has helped a lot in dealing with the epidemic, it has given us flexibility and has expanded our capabilities. From here on, we can only learn from the events and we have yet to make a more focused effort in developing key innovations that will make us more prepared for future challenges.