Pandemic catalysed lasting digital changes

Telemedicine

Francis Osiemo, a clinician and the Chief Operating Officer of Sasa Doctor attends to his client through the app.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Consulting a doctor on the phone or via video at a fee can feel unnatural for the first time, just as it feels herding reluctant children into an online class.
  • Tied together by digital tools, workers can work from anywhere, thereby saving on travel time, cutting down on office costs while improving productivity.

Covid-19 is not just a century marker; it is a catalyst for lasting changes. Covid-19 obliterated many of the obstacles humans used as an excuse for slow digital adoption.

In just a few months, Covid-19 spurred behaviour change necessary for a fast-paced digital transition that would have taken years to achieve.

Human beings, by nature, are wedded to their past. We are innately enamoured of the tried and true. We are unconsciously pinned to the cozy comfort zone. We are half-hearted about an uncertain destination.

When Covid-19 heralded a tidal wave of uneasy changes, it must have felt odd and uncomfortable talking to a computer during virtual meetings. Consulting a doctor on the phone or via video at a fee can feel unnatural for the first time, just as it feels herding reluctant children into an online class.

Entertainment

With traditional avenues for learning, entertainment, and commerce scaling down due to Covid-19, we turned to digital — to online classes, relied more on on-phone and computer entertainment, and increased our confidence in the use of mobile money transactions. We retrofitted our homes to allow for remote working — for those whose jobs could allow working from afar.

We could not stay ambivalent — we had to adapt to changes or get elbowed to oblivion. Businesses have taken a big hit: It is estimated that in the US alone, around 100,000 brick-and-mortar stores will close or shift their businesses online by the time the pandemic is done with us. By comparison, this number is several times higher than companies that closed in the wake of the 2007-9 worldwide recession.

 Consequently, western countries are now jolted by historic job losses, a bellwether for what awaits developing nations if we take a tepid stance at embracing tech disruptions.

In most part, these changes promise to deliver a better and safer future. Take, for example, the changes taking place in the auto industry. Autonomous cars are increasingly becoming commonplace in the developed world. They will be safer than people-driven vehicles because most motor accidents are caused by humans' recklessness.

Commercial planes

Flying is the safest mode of transport. Apart from take-off and landing, most modern commercial planes fly by computer technology — autopilot.

Many of the changes brought by Covid-19 and technology will not end with the pandemic. They are permanent. Many American and European companies, for example, intend to shift some of their jobs permanently to offsite in the belief that they maintain productivity while giving their workers flexibility.

Tied together by digital tools, workers can work from anywhere, thereby saving on travel time, cutting down on office costs while improving productivity.

But technology has its dark side too, and its use must be taken with a grain of salt. Phones and digital platforms have been used to stoke the worst of human beings — hatred, corruption, addiction, and other vices.

samwambugu@gmail.com Twitter:@samwambugu2