By Tara Gibson - September 8, 2020
The last six months has been devastating for many people. Tens of thousands of families have lost loved ones, millions are out of work, and economists are warning of a double-dip recession that will continue until 2022 - or longer if an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is not developed in the near future.
If, a year ago, you had predicted the devastation that has occurred in the last six months, few people would have taken you seriously. Yet it's happened, and most of us have coped with it (so far). However, while each of us has our own coping mechanisms, one common factor has helped the majority of us cope during the COVID-19 pandemic more than any other - information technology or IT.
The term “information technology” has been in use for more than sixty years, but its creators probably never conceived the practical uses IT would be put to during a period of stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, and social distancing. We look at seven ways in which IT has helped us cope during the COVID-19 pandemic and that will likely continue to be a big part of our lives in a post-pandemic era.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, online shopping accounted for around 20% of all retail sales. As soon as it was not possible to go shopping physically, online sales exploded - and not just for essentials. According to a survey conducted by BaazarVoice, 41% of online shoppers bought goods online they would normally shop for in-store during March - the most popular retail sectors including:
When they first launched, robot deliveries were seen as a bit of a novelty. During the pandemic, they became invaluable for delivering medication and food to vulnerable populations unable to leave their homes. Restaurants have also adopted robot deliveries as a safer alternative to Uber Eats and Deliveroo, and you can expect to see plenty more robots trundling through the streets in the new normal.
Last month, a Gallup survey found remote working has more than doubled during the pandemic and that the average U.S. worker now works from home for 5.8 days each month. While the number of workers working remotely is likely to fall as communities re-open, the results of a PWC survey suggests more than half of office workers will be working from home at least one day a week in the future.
Distance learning may not have helped childless adults cope during the pandemic, but for people with kids, it was a godsend. Active youngsters, who would have otherwise been driving their parents crazy during lockdown, had something to do; and although concerns exist that continued distance learning may widen the digital divide, it may become necessary if schools cannot maintain social distancing.
3D printing stepped up during the pandemic to become a vital technology in the healthcare industry. Due to the possibility to produce environmentally friendly items on demand, 3D printing was used to quickly produce ventilator valves, PPE, testing devices, face masks, and even isolation wards at less cost than through usual procurement channels - thus reducing waste and inventory.
With nothing but depressing news and repeats on TV, online entertainment channels gave us the opportunity to binge watch old favorites, keep fit, and take up new pastimes. As it is unlikely many new TV series will be aired before the New Year, channels such as YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok will continue to be the go-to sources of online entertainment once all the box sets are exhausted.
In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) vastly expanded the range of remote telehealth services available to Medicare beneficiaries in order that healthcare providers could continue providing a service to outpatients. While not suitable for every patient (i.e. ones without an Internet-connected device), telehealth will almost certainly be a big part of our lives in a post-pandemic era.
While many of us don't give much thought to how these technologies work, the efforts put in by developers, software engineers, and system administrators to help us cope during the COVID-19 pandemic should not go unrecognized. They may not have been frontline workers in the same way as healthcare professionals, but they certainly prevented some of us from going crazy.
The same recognition should be given to IT teams that enabled grieving families to communicate, that supported payment systems so unemployed workers could collect benefits, and that secured networks for businesses still trading in these uncertain times. Let us hope we are not so reliant on their skills and abilities over the next six months.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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