The coronavirus has changed the world. These changes will also remain with us after the pandemic
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic has made the technology for remote communication in schools, at work and in offices very important. Paradoxically, the dangerous situation in the world allowed for rapid development (in terms of technology and business) of all solutions that support the possibility of non-contact communication – which is extremely important during the pandemic.
It is not particularly controversial to claim that the first pandemic in the era of globalization can leave a social stigma comparable to the Great Depression or the September 11 attacks (comparisons to the Great Wars now seem to be out of place). Let us look at a few areas where the prospect of major changes is already clear.
Work from anywhere in the world has so far been standard only in a narrow group of professions. While the current situation is nothing new for programmers, it is a major revolution for the millions of employees who have turned desks at work into home. This revolution can also continue after the world wins the fight against the coronavirus.
Of course, this does not have to mean that all those currently working in the homes will remain there. Officials will return to offices, teachers to schools, white collar workers to offices, etc. The key thing, however, is that the coronavirus has forced the world to go through an accelerated remote work lesson, which would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Meanwhile, it suddenly turned out that when necessary, some things can be done over the Internet – no meetings, conferences, queues, etc. This range will certainly only expand, thanks to further development of tools for remote working.
Above all, however, remote working can bring measurable benefits, both for the employee and the employer. First of all, such a mode reduces the need to travel, which consumes both time and money (not only the cost of transport but also living in the relative vicinity of the workplace). Secondly, remote work of a part of the whole team translates into lower maintenance costs (seat rental, cleaning, etc.). Thirdly, thanks to teleconferences, the need for some business trips will disappear (airlines and hotels should be on the lookout not only in the short term). If employees and employers together recognize that the benefits of remote working outweigh certain inconveniences (with no direct contact at the forefront), we may witness a revolution in the labor market.
The second fast-track lesson in Poland and the world is e-learning. The tools for distance learning (learning) have been known for a long time. The problem was the lack of sufficient motivation to use them. The compulsory schooling in the XXI century was still mostly based on the model of education known from the previous centuries “teacher-classroom and blackboard”. Only the coronavirus will open parts of the teaching community and the parents themselves to see what education can look like.
Again, it is not about locking all children in their homes and making them spend even more hours in front of the computer screen than they have spent so far. The role of the school as a place where younger children go when their parents go to work will probably not disappear so quickly. However, it is not an exaggeration to say that – especially at later stages of education – it loses its importance whether the teacher is seen right in front of him or her or only on the screen. Even before the coronavirus epidemic on YouTube, films helping to solve mathematical tasks or discussing school readings triumphed. It is hoped that this Internet “second circuit” will be incorporated into the state education system. After all, you never know when the need to send students home will come again.
Teaching via the Internet can have particularly serious consequences for higher education. Traditional lectures have limitations on time, place, and available places. Countless students can listen to good lecturers on the Internet (which will reduce the number of students wasting their lives on poor lecturers). In the case of practice and laboratory classes, a lot depends of course on the specifics of the studies. We would prefer that the future doctor or engineer could do something “in the real world” correctly. However, already students of finance, mathematics, history, etc. can successfully turn the classes conducted face-to-face into the Internet. If the studies in the remote mode only gain a systemic fixation, it may turn out that studying at a good university does not mean moving to a big city. This, in turn, can be of great importance to both the real estate market in large cities and the problem of depopulation of smaller centers.
Coronavirus and healthcare
When considering the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, one cannot overlook the broadly understood health care. The field, which was a bullet in the footsteps of all the governments of the Third Republic of Poland and which is one of the main topics of public debate in almost all countries of the world, can finally await the funding that many have already postulated. Just like after the floods of the millennium, the large crowds suddenly started to be interested in the issue of retention tanks and river regulation, now we can be sure that the interest in hospital equipment or the salaries of doctors and nurses will increase. On the wave of these moods, politicians will change their priorities and resources, which previously flowed to the construction of stadiums or subsequent social transfers, with the full support of the sovereign will be pumped into health care.
The use of medical services may also change. Some aspects of e-medicine were introduced in Poland even before the epidemic (e-prescriptions, e-salvage, etc.). The costs of such solutions are much lower than with traditional methods, and the comfort for the patient is also greater. Therefore, it can be expected that some solutions implemented during the crisis (in order to limit the number of people coming to the clinic) will stay with us permanently.
The pandemic has shown that health care is not only a national topic. We can expect that, just as after September 11th, the countries joined the coordinated fight against terrorism, international action on health issues will now emerge. The ongoing pandemic is rather not the last in the history of the world, so it will want to be more prepared for the next mankind (just as the inhabitants of the Far East are now wiser about the experience of the SARS epidemic from the early 21st century).
However, it turns out that even after the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus epidemic teleports will be on the agenda. For the doctor and the patient, this means saving time – especially because the Polish healthcare system has recently been improved by the possibility of issuing electronic prescriptions, that can be obtained by means of a mobile phone or a special code. Such systems are also able to prevent drug addiction: thanks to the electronic record of prescriptions, a doctor can deduce whether a given patient has been taking a given drug for too long. This type of solution also makes the falsification of prescriptions much more difficult.
Healthcare systems will need solutions to support contact between the patient and the doctor. There will be communicators and platforms where the patient and the doctor can obtain information about the services provided, the history of the disease, and the drugs prescribed. This will allow avoiding dangerous interactions between drugs prescribed by doctors of different specialties. Moreover, storing huge amounts of sensitive patient data requires the creation of an efficient and safe place where it will be recorded and processed.
The coronavirus pandemic will also provide another excuse for even greater surveillance by the authorities. The way China deals with the plague makes the system of monitoring its citizens, compared to Big Brother, no longer just their internal domain. Examples are already found outside the Middle Kingdom. Israel recently decided to track the cell phones of infected citizens, so that people who were close to the sick could receive appropriate warnings. South Korea also fights against the virus not only with the largest number of tests performed in the world but also with the collation of data from monitoring cameras, cell phones, payment cards, etc.
It seems that it is a matter of time before similar solutions appear elsewhere. The fear of a repeat of the pandemic will be a sufficient explanation for many to relinquish further areas of privacy and extend state control. As history teaches, these kinds of powers are not always used properly.
Cash is also associated with the issue of privacy and supervision by the authorities. The fight against paper money was waged around the world long before anyone heard of the COVID-19, but now it has gained extra wind in the sails. Encouraging non-cash payments because of the risk of the virus being transmitted through banknotes opens the way for a further reduction in cash flow. In a world without cash, the state will be able to know about any money transaction (barter or alternative forms of money, such as silver or gold), which, combined with other information about the person concerned, can give the authorities new opportunities.
Apart from the change in the way the state operates, the coronavirus will also influence the most important decisions in the market economy, i.e. the decisions of millions of consumers. Shopping over the Internet instead of visiting a shopping mall, eating out with a pick-up instead of going to a restaurant, an evening with Netflix instead of going to the cinema, a teleconference instead of a long journey or a vacation more often in the country instead of in warm countries… The list of small choices is long and all of them will affect the demand in particular industries. Of course, the “old world” won’t wait with its hands-on – we can already see that cinema chains are lowering ticket prices and travel agencies are tempting with attractive offers. However, even the outflow of some customers to new solutions will mean lower revenues and profits.
The most fundamental change may be the approach to “being prepared” for unexpected events. Today, nobody laughs at the preppers who made a hobby of gathering food, medicine, weapons, etc. for the time of the collapse of civilization. This does not mean that after the coronavirus epidemic everyone will start digging a bunker into the house garden. However, larger stocks of food and medicine, a tank full of fuel, or some savings for a black hour will be things that people will remember more often.
The pandemic has shown us that managing the labor force is very important: not only in terms of competence, time but also… health. Employers who are unable to send all their employees to work remotely must at all times be well informed about the health of the team members. One person who should not be at the workplace can cause complete paralysis by infecting others. This does not only apply to situations such as the coronavirus pandemic – even a “normal” flu can significantly impact the capabilities of individual departments.
Employers are already looking for solutions that will allow them to effectively manage human resources in the company, also in the context of a pandemic threat. They want to know whether a given employee has had contact with someone who is ill, whether he has been in places where the disease occurred or whether someone from his family has symptoms. This is perfectly natural and is part of the individual and collective responsibility. Such solutions would make it possible to react immediately to possible emergencies for example by sending an employee to remote work for a certain period of time if deemed necessary. All for the common good.
Such solutions could also have a huge impact on the situation on the labor market: employers, being able to manage their human resources better, would be able to avoid situations in which they would have to suspend their activities due to random events.
How did Covid-19 affect other issues?
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic showed us the power of 3D printing, which proved to be a salvation for medical facilities lacking life-supporting parts. It turned out that it is possible to omit the official distribution of such parts (very expensive and currently poorly accessible) thanks to the possibility of printing them in a 3D printer. It is amazing that as a society we are able to create solutions that address such important issues.
We are convinced that thanks to reports on printing parts for life support devices in 3D printers, we will be able to create much cheaper sets of respirators, infusion pumps, and all kinds of medical equipment in the future. This will make them more accessible also in countries where healthcare is underfunded.
The development of 3D printing will also have a positive impact on the rapid creation and production of personal protective equipment, it has already been proven by some entrepreneurs who support local healthcare facilities. Thanks to media coverage, 3D printing may prove to be an extremely attractive direction for new technologies in the coming years. It is said that this is what the 3D printing industry needed.
The market for the supply of all kinds of goods is already very well developed, but it does not meet all the needs of consumers in all countries, and safety during delivery has never been so strongly emphasized. Just look at what has happened in the online ordering industry – countries affected by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic have introduced “touchless deliveries”. After ordering food online, the supplier leaves the package at the door and moves away from the customer. This type of behavior, which increases the distance, is extremely important in situations such as pandemics. It is said that “touchless delivery” will become a standard in many countries.
Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that in some cases it is impossible to avoid contact with a supplier/employee of a company or institution that provides similar services (e.g. post). Written confirmation that a letter or parcel has been received is common practice and it is another chance to pass on microorganisms. Therefore, the technology industry will look for alternative forms of certification (all kinds of electronic signatures), but this requires changes in national legislation. This is definitely a process that has already started.
During the isolation period, all online shopping platforms have gained a lot. Customers who cannot (or don’t want to) leave their homes have noticed that they can order goods online and pick them up from a courier (this is related to the previous part of this text). It has been observed that many companies for which online sales was just an “extra”, have devoted a lot of resources to developing online commerce. Moreover, those companies that operated mainly online are still doing quite well (in most cases) during the pandemic.
This means that the importance of e-commerce on the market will rise – which means that many companies that will survive the pandemic will either develop their own internet platforms or strengthen existing ones. Every company wants to be prepared for a similar crisis in the future and meet consumer needs.
The world that we will return to in some time when the threat of a pandemic is over and we win the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, will be somewhat different. Some priorities and directions of development will change. It is possible that the distance between us and society will be bigger for years. However, we are sure that we will emerge stronger from this crisis – as always. Humanity has endured many wars and natural disasters. Every time we have emerged from it even stronger than before. It won’t be different this time.
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has changed our world irreversibly. Some changes will stay with us for a long time – it is certain and inevitable. However, it is worth it to be prepared for this and to create solutions in good time, which will allow us to adapt to the new realities. Modern businesses should focus on keeping up with the changes in the world at all times – regardless of what these changes are caused.
Do you have an idea for a solution that will allow your company or your clients to better adapt to new conditions? Show it to us and we will create a plan to implement it. At Concise Software, we love to change the world for the better.