The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about generational change in the way we perceive and adopt technology. Everyday things that it may have taken years for even the most technology-challenged common citizens to embrace have become household needs or government-mandated requirements overnight. The impact of this on how we function on a day-to-day basis will be long-term and eventually, likely permanent.
We have seen the widespread use of technology in healthcare- take rapid testing kits, contact tracing applications or post-COVID rehabilitation techniques. Then we have contactless ways of exchanging data or verifying identity being used more frequently and in a much more sophisticated manner than ever before. Digital payment mechanisms, which have been around for a while became absolutely essential for one and all. High quality video-conferencing for work meetings or even for connecting with large groups of friends and family separated by lockdown, seemingly at the click of a button, is already being taken for granted.
Even the simplest web or mobile platforms previously used for buying groceries and ordering home delivery meals saw a massive explosion globally in their customer base. Where F&B outlets re-opened, the emphasis was on digital menus using QR codes, rather than a traditional paper menu card being handed out to each patron. These are just a few basic examples of how technology that seems natural and necessary today will become entrenched in everyday life forever in days to come.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, or rather in this case has helped propel these existing inventions to an unprecedented height in terms of perfection on the part of the developers, and adoption on the part of the customers. These are all here to stay and will constantly keep evolving, remaining necessities for the rest of our lives.
Cutting-edge healthcare technology has always been considered the strength of the so-called developed world, but the COVID situation showed us that countries like India were not far behind in developing their own vaccines, amongst other things. The emphasis on health-tech that this crisis has, and will undoubtedly continue to put, will mark a sea change in how we deal with illnesses- from a simple viral to a more complex disease.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play an important role in prevention, detection and treatment of disease. Rapid tests for communicable diseases, though already prevalent, could very well become a norm, enabling faster detection and cure. Physical rehabilitation techniques could commonly involve anything from neuro-science based video games to other remote remedies patients have access to from the comfort of their homes, changing the landscape for hospital operators and insurance providers.
Contactless exchange of information has again been something long in the making with a multitude of applications and communication channels opening up since the dawn of the web, and then ultimately social media. The pandemic has simply extended the necessity for this to essential personal data used to verify identity, remotely open bank accounts or conduct important day-to-day tasks without having to physically hand over original documents or pieces of paper to another individual. We will go from traditional methods like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and QR codes to even more sophisticated and seamless means such as ultrasonic communication over sound waves.
The future of digital payments will develop similarly. While the more tech-savvy have considered them fashionable and convenient for a few years, the pandemic has cemented their importance and place in the economy. Going to bank branches or ATMs to withdraw cash that eventually becomes tattered (and potentially virus-infused!) will become redundant as every household staff member, grandparent or vegetable vendor on the street-corner have access to payments applications. What demonetization could not do, this pandemic might achieve- with India and other developing countries, while not going almost completely cashless to the same degree as say Scandinavia, relying less on paper money.
‘Zoom’ is perhaps the most used new word that came into common parlance in 2020. It is now right up there with ‘Google’, ‘Facebook’ or ‘Instagram’, quite literally serving as a verb in commonly strung sentences in the English language. While people became accustomed to using such platforms on account of the pandemic, going forward, global corporations will realise the value of cost-savings on account of unnecessary business travel, not to mention expensive offices where employees are not necessarily more productive than at home. Families living across continents too may find it acceptable to meet once a year rather than twice or thrice. With celebratory events like weddings and birthdays now commonly occurring virtually, this is not unthinkable. While public memory may be short lived when it comes to news cycles, both business and private life will positively adjust to the impact virtual interaction has on peoples’ pockets.
The retail and F&B sector are perhaps impacted most significantly forever, and not just when it comes to their bottom line for the duration of the pandemic. Even when travel resumes normalcy, going out or buying essential or luxury items may never be what it once was. As the COVID generation’s twenty-somethings grow into tomorrow’s big spenders, the idea of home delivery via an app for anything large or small from stationery to luxury handbags, gourmet meals to (regulation permitting!) alcohol will become routine. The environmentalist anti-paper brigade will be only too happy to see the elimination of physical menu cards that needs to exchange hands from all F&B outlets, and customers too will forget that this was once the elegant way of doing things.
On a basic human level, the modalities of life in the time of corona will create a long term and permanent change to how we engage in some of the most basic activities in the course of our existence, with technology- the most simple as well as the most hi-fi, altering our experiences for a very very long time to come, and in most part, probably for the better.
By Siddhaant Mohta, Co-founder, Doot