The emergency we are currently experiencing is putting all of us to the test. In both body and mind we are facing a situation that few of us could have imagined. While on one hand this might suggest a moment of stasis, on the other hand, during this period of lockdown, a surge of creativity and innovation have also emerged, perhaps more so than we expected. The forced quarantine that so many of us are experiencing has closed companies, schools, gyms and many retail outlets, but it has led to an opening of sorts of digital.
How digital can help
The theme of digitization has always had the dual function of uniting and, often simultaneously, dividing. It serves to bring people together in the form of social networks, uniting professionals who can share information and opinions on platforms like LinkedIn, and it can unite working groups who share resources in the cloud. However, digital can also create barriers to entry, a digital divide of sorts for those without access, whether due to affordability or connectivity for under-served areas.
For better or for worse, digital is here to stay. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that digital, as a resource, is helping us, especially in the current moment, when social distancing and the health emergency have taken over, upsetting, perhaps irreversibly changing our lives.
Our daily working life, our relationships with friends and family, our home lives, our health, are all being faced in a totally new way, for which, (perhaps) we were not prepared.
A different way of living sociality
Our social relationships, a precious and essential asset of our lives, are for some are becoming acquainted with new tools such as chat and video chat. Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Skype, and Houseparty are just some of the platforms we’re using to feel close from afar. Hashtags like #iorestoacasa in Italy have provided a form of digital comfort to help us feel less lonely. Social media, in this situation, continues to act as a glue between people.
Sensemakers analyzed how people are using the major platforms since the beginning of the emergency and identified a 30% increase in interactions on Facebook and Twitter. User-generated content—posts, stories—on Instagram has experienced a surge, with hashtags like #iorestoacasa and #andràtuttobuttobene in Italy going viral. For their part, even the platforms, and especially Facebook, have done their part, integrating services for communication between people of different groups, but also for the dissemination of information related to prevention and various health-related measures.
From school classroom to e-learning
As the health emergency has forced a total closure of the classroom as we know it for the current school year, the world of education has been both overwhelmed and disrupted. In just a few days, a system almost totally foreign to the digital world has had to rethink its logic. Although e-learning was already part of the university world (although not for all institutions), the school system, from high school down, was certainly not used to operating with digital processes and tools. The transition to a digital school has not proceeded in a uniform way, not for institutions, nor for families. Platforms like Teams, Zoom, and Webex are ensuring the continuity of lessons, quizzes, exams, advice, and staff meetings. However, these have all been subject to many difficulties and problems that we will not discuss here, and studies and initiatives are taking place to assess countries’ digital literacy and offer assistance and guidance.
The terms smart working, agile work, teleworking, and remote working are not new, and while there are nuanced differences between them, they all refer to work away from the typical workplace, or office. Today, while many companies’ physical locations are “closed,” they are still doing business, just in a distributed way. To provide continuity during such a period, our teams need smart processes and tools (after all, it is no coincidence that we call it smart working).
Cloud services, the use of VPN systems, and phone and video platforms allow the work to proceed, and sometimes, to be even more productive. We recently talked about smart working with our own Guido Spagnoli, Chief Financial Officer and Head of Human Resources at Doxee.
In the current situation, employees in most parts of Europe and the US are no longer commuting to work, which means there is no time lost to travel (not to mention the environmental sustainability as a result of reduced transportation). Employees and companies are the engine of the economy in these countries, and it is necessary to make sure that when this engine starts up again, when offices and production lines reopen, that people feel safe and protected.
How to do this? First of all, processes and procedures must be followed up with good, effective, clear, and direct internal communication. Also in this case, digital tools, such as email, personalized videos, and newsletters, can help companies process and disseminate information.
Everyday life goes digital
In our everyday lives, we don’t pay much attention to the processes behind our normal routines. Think about the way you shop, how often you go to a restaurant or bar, how you pay your bills. In our current reality, even these simple activities have profoundly changed. The food and wine category for online shopping has increased by 227% according to l’Osservatorio Consumi di Payback of American Express, with technology and household products coming in second in terms of growth. There is also 70% growth in online transactions, which testifies to the fact that spending is now also digital.
And bills? This topic has caused great chaos among consumers and players in the utility sector, so much so as to push a leading Italian provider to consider cuts and other measures for those who are behind on their payments. Also in this case, digital payments could (and have) solved many problems. We have extensively addressed the issue in one of our recent posts, identifying the advantages and opportunities of what we believe is the future of the utility industry.
Health and telemedicine
And your health? This is certainly the most difficult and delicate subject to deal with, but we want to highlight some interesting and valuable initiatives that are helping some of those in difficulty.
The use of digital technology has set in motion a new telemedicine system that in some regions is used for the basic doctor-patient relationship. Video appointments and consultations, although in the early stage in Italy, could be the immediate future of a new way of medicine. It is not necessary, however, to think of these instruments as substitutes, but rather as necessary complements to the situation we are currently facing.
This brief look at how digital has entered our lives through the emergency door leads us to reflect on the need for a paradigm shift, a vision for the tools and processes that can provide assistance and ease of use. Given the uncertainties of the future, it is necessary for us to explore the aspects of digital that can have a positive impact on our daily lives.