Pandemic and the new digital reality

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, technologies are playing a crucial role in keeping societies functional in a time of lockdowns and quarantines. Inevitably this global situation has a visible impact on the development of tech trends.  And these technologies may have a long-lasting impact beyond COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated 10 key technology trends, which can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus while helping businesses stay open.Here are 10 technology trends that can help build a resilient society, as well as considerations about their effects on how we do business, how we trade, how we work, how we produce goods, how we learn, how we seek medical services and how we entertain ourselves.

1. Online Shopping and Robot Deliveries
COVID-19 has transformed online shopping from a nice-to-have to a must-have around the world. Chinese e-commerce giants are also ramping up their development of robot deliveries.

2. Digital and Contactless Payments
Contactless digital payments, either in the form of cards or e-wallets, are the recommended payment method to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Digital payments enable people to make online purchases and payments of goods, services and even utility payments. However, according to the World Bank, there are more than 1.7 billion unbanked people, who may not have easy access to digital payments. The availability of digital payments also relies on internet availability, devices and a network to convert cash into a digitalized format.

3. Remote Work
Many companies have asked employees to work from home. Remote work is enabled by technologies including virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocols (VoIPs), virtual meetings, cloud technology, work collaboration tools and even facial recognition technologies that enable a person to appear before a virtual background to preserve the privacy of the home. But there is a problem, as not all jobs can be done from home, which creates social, economical and financial disparity.  Some professions, such as medical services and manufacturing, may not have the option at all.

4. Distance Learning
As of mid-April, 191 countries announced or implemented school or university closures, impacting 1.57 billion students. Many educational institutions started offering courses online to ensure education was not disrupted by quarantine measures. Technologies involved in distant learning are similar to those for remote work and also include virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing and artificial-intelligence-enabled robot teachers.

5. Telehealth
Telehealth can be an effective way to contain the spread of COVID-19 while still providing essential primary careIn this case too, there are some challenges. In countries where medical costs are high, it's important to ensure telehealth will be covered by insurance. Telehealth also requires a certain level of tech literacy to operate, as well as a good internet connection.

6. Online Entertainment
Although quarantine measures have reduced in-person interactions significantly, human creativity has brought the party online. Museums and international heritage sites offer virtual tours. There has also been a surge of online gaming traffic since the outbreak.

7. Supply Chain 4.0
The COVID-19 pandemic has created disruptions to the global supply chain. With distancing and quarantine orders, some factories are completely shut down. Core technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as Big Data, cloud computing, Internet-of-Things (“IoT”) and blockchain are building a more resilient supply chain management system for the future by enhancing the accuracy of data and encouraging data sharing.

8. 3D Printing
3D printing technology has been deployed to mitigate shocks to the supply chain and export bans on personal protective equipment. 3D printing offers flexibility in production: the same printer can produce different products based on different design files and materials, and simple parts can be made onsite quickly without requiring a lengthy procurement process and a long wait for the shipment to arrive.

9. Robotics and Drones
COVID-19 provided a strong push to rollout the usage of robots and research on robotics. In recent weeks, robots have been used to disinfect areas and to deliver food to those in quarantine. Drones have walked dogs and delivered items.

10. 5G and Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
All the aforementioned technology trends rely on a stable, high-speed and affordable internet. While 5G has demonstrated its importance in remote monitoring and healthcare consultation, the rollout of 5G is delayed in Europe at the time when the technology may be needed the most.


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