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Creating a post-COVID tech future

Technology is the glue that holds our lives together. It has come into its own during the pandemic and will become even more important as efforts to battle health, economic and climate crises ramp up and we’ll need citizens to embrace a greater role for technology in their lives if these efforts are to be successful.

COVID will be seen as technology’s turning point

Pre-COVID, tech arguably got a rough ride from the public. Consumers were apt to conveniently overlook their reliance on smartphones, their Netflix habits and their Amazon Prime deliveries, preferring instead to rail against tech like facial recognition, social media driven misinformation and intrusions into their privacy.

COVID certainly proved to be just as much of an opportunity for the tech sector as it was a crisis. The evidence is undeniable: Certainly, more people used more technology in more ways as a result of COVID:

  • There was a surge in overall usage
  • Social media and dating apps profited
  • Streaming entertainment boomed
  • The virtual office became reality
  • Ecommerce grew in size and reach

But, increases in usage were just the beginning. What is more crucial for the long-term perception of technology is the way that our relationship with technology evolved through the long days of lockdown. We came to see tech as a solution to our problems, though its ability to act in many roles:

Tech as protector,

Tech as provider,

Tech as informer,

Tech as educator,

Tech as enabler,

Tech as connector,

Tech as entertainer

and others

The way that we turned to technology during COVID lockdowns may generate a change in public attitudes that will change the landscape of negativity forever.

Facing crises too big for humans alone to solve

We are unquestionably living in challenging times. And, though there is better news on the health front, there is every sign that the next few years will require huge Ingenuity and collective effort, In order to secure the future.

COVID + Brexit + Recession + Climate Change = an precedented combination of potentially existential threat to worldwide populations

There is no way that humans alone will be able to act in a co-ordinated and synchronised manner across these threats, without the intervention and assistance of technology to identify and implement solutions.

The World Economic Forum report “Digital Transformation – Powering the Great Reset” issued last June focusses on a wide range of important topics including Sustainability, Economics, Healthcare and Digital Transformation and highlights that we now have a relatively narrow window of opportunity in which to leverage technology to reset the future.

Splendid UNLIMITED have used this report as the jumping off point for a series of “Splendid Conversations” which look at the Retail, Finance, Healthcare and Housing sectors, to establish what each of the industries must do to create more accessible solutions, in order to keep up with the pace of digital acceleration.

Here, though, we look briefly at how tech can transform the way we deal with crises in health, economy and climate.

Tech and the HEALTH CRISIS

Tech can create healthier living by reducing infection, enabling remote lifestyles and telemedicine and facilitating treatments. More specifically, it can:

  • revolutionise the processes behind treatment and the provision of care.
  • enable remote solutions for diagnosis and care.
  • optimise our new-found focus on hygiene, social distancing, and no-touch.
  • underpin contact tracing efforts to reduce infections.
  • enable efficient processes for the production, distribution and giving of vaccines.
  • provide the “vaccine passports” that are needed to get some sectors back on their feet.

“We are seeing something that was played around with for a while and everyone thought was a nice idea and suddenly this forcing function of COVID-19 has truly pushed medicine into the digital era.”

Dr. Jack Kreindler, CHHP & Mosaic Ventures, May 2020


Tech and the ECONOMY

Tech can revive the global economy by fostering creativity and disruption, but it can also enable ordinary consumers to better live with current economic turmoil and better plan for the future. Technology will drive greater resilience to turmoil. It will shift money management tools online, keep momentum in the marketplace, support the vulnerable and enable people to build for the future.

“The integration of deep tech across energy, agriculture, education, financial services, healthcare & logistics will revolutionise business models.” Prakash Mallya, Financial Express: “Digitally empowered road to economic resurgence” (link)

Tech and the CLIMATE CRISIS

Tech can help optimise resource use, increase crops, drive less intense lifestyles, and enable education. More specifically, technologies will:

  • make carbon footprints more visible to consumers and businesses.
  • make corporate green efforts more easily verified.
  • enabling consumers and businesses to be resilient to a changing climate
  • improve the performance of alternative energy solutions.
  • drive carbon (re)capture technologies.
  • create smart businesses and smart cities.

“Technology is the source of many environmental and social problems, but it is also key to addressing environmental degradation, climate change, food scarcity, waste management and a host of other modern challenges.”

UN Environment Programme (link)

Changing public attitudes to technology & tech providers

Technology gets something of a rough deal. Much of the positive side of its contribution to society is taken for granted while any negative impacts generate media debate and consumer angst. We argue that tech itself needs to better market itself.  While individual players in the industry focus on marketing themselves, the entire sector could benefit from an image makeover, stressing its positive benefits to society, addressing common misgivings about the sector and distancing their responsible practices from those of unregulated profiteers.

We’d advocate two main activities:

  • Focus on the core benefits of tech: protection, provision & enablement, connection, Information, entertainment, and efficiency and reliability from a process standpoint.
  • Stress the neutrality of tech: it is neither angel nor demon. In the right hands and backed by powerful legislation preventing misuse, technology can be our saviour – streamlining lives, preventing waste, battling disease, keeping us fed, supplied, and entertained.

There will always be those seeking to use the latest innovations in technology for their own ends – be it for profit, for causes or merely for mischief. But, we must ensure that the actions of malefactors don’t distract us from the huge power of technology to transform our futures. We’re going to need all the help we can get.

This article was written by Nick Chiarelli, Head of Trends at UNLIMITED.