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Coronavirus: Tech to the rescue

It has largely been technology that has kept workers productive and the kids entertained during the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, says Billy MacInnes

One thing that has come out of Covid-19, the lockdown, and the huge increase in the numbers of people being forced to stay indoors and work from home is that we are beginning to see the value of the technology we possess.

This is most obvious in the way we use it as a means to link us to the outside world. Parents who once anxiously wondered whether their kids were spending too much time on their phones are now appreciative of how they allow them to engage with their friends. Families are able to see and talk to each other on video despite being stuck in houses miles away from each other.

It’s interesting to point out, however, that while the circumstances seem tailor-made for online shopping, with so many outlets shuttered for weeks, people are still going to supermarkets to stock up on essentials, possibly because of a need for some human interaction (however dispersed) or as another excuse to get out of the house beyond their one period of daily exercise.

Perhaps they have also been put off by the long lead times cited by many online delivery services in the early days of the lockdown or by the complications added to the delivery process by the virus and the precautions needed to be taken against it.

But despite the difficulties with orders, early concerns over the ability of the broadband networks to handle a predicted upsurge in traffic from the swollen ranks of those confined at home seem to have abated. Technology has, for the most part, not been found wanting. Life goes on, albeit in a truncated fashion.

But looking at the world around me through the TV screen, my smartphone or laptop, I can’t help wondering if the virus and its consequences are helping us to get a clearer view of just how much technology we really need.

So much of the marketing we lived through during normal times seemed designed to make organisations, businesses and people believe that they were suffering from not enough technology (NET). The implied message was that all they needed to make things better was to invest in this technology, that service or that phone – ad infinitum.

One thing very few customers were ever accused of was having excessive technology (ET) even though there were probably quite a few that did but, to be fair, they probably thought of it as “future-proofing”.

In the absence of any major IT disasters, failure or outages in this unprecedented period of disruption to our normal lives and patterns, I have to wonder if the blunt truth is that, despite all the urging to replace this and migrate to that, the vast majority of organisations, businesses and people have been blessed with good enough technology (GET) all along. After all, if a global pandemic isn’t a strong enough test for the capability of your technology, I’m not sure what is.

So far – touch screen – it seems to be doing a remarkably good job for very many of us. When this is over, we may see a resumption of the relentless cycle of upgrade/migrate, but it will be tempered by the economic situation which greets us when the lockdown has ended.

It might not be possible to restart the treadmill of consumption that has been temporarily suspended for the past few weeks or it may only work at a much slower speed. A lot of things that we assumed and accepted as orthodoxy could come under renewed scrutiny when this is over.

To quote Bob Dylan’s Oscar-winning song: “I used to care, but things have changed.”

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