Life during and after lockdown: how tech is helping in times like these

Now that much of the world is in lockdown, relying on technology that many viewed with worry and suspicion mere months ago is coming into focus.

With the crisis mode that most countries find themselves in now has forced citizens, organisations, and governments to adapt as best they can in order to carry on despite the enormous economic and social disruption. Many of the technologies that we take for granted are proving essential to maintain normality, such as some public services and other business activities. And in the long run it may eventually pay dividends.

However, consider the past decade and the rise of smartphones and tablets, when an informal coalition of sociologists and media warned that screens are addictive and digital tools harm the ability to focus, to work, or to build relationships. But what would have we done without these tools to communicate with colleagues and our families?

With millions of schoolchildren and students at home and relying on screens for education and entertainment nowadays, nobody would complain that UK children hold the second-highest weekly screen time in the world, according to the DQ Institute.

Some resistance to new technologies dissolves over time, but it can take generations. The story has repeated itself across time and culture. Would you describe comics as a menace to creativity in young minds? It was in the early years of the 20th century. The same happened when radio or television arrived. Or even the Internet! Some scary future tech will eventually make parents nostalgic for iPads or even Instagram!

The same with remote working and bosses resistant to allowing employees to work from home – even though a research has found that remote workers are more productive and stay with their employers longer. Now many remote workers are discovering videoconferencing tools such as Cisco WebEx. But can you imagine how many different options could have been developed in the marketplace if people integrated technologies in their lives?

In the future, as restrictions lift and lockdowns come to an end, the use of new technologies may mean a new wave of innovations. That will be the greatest collective challenge. With incentives changing, the effects can be profound and lead to radically new types of digital tools and far greater accessibility. One immediate change can be the acceleration of 5G wireless technology, which can bring far accessibility to rural communities that do not have access to broadband internet. It is a massive shift in culture, economy, and society. It is a live improvement, and we should encourage something that really does improve lives. Don’t you think?