The devastation wrought by the Pandemic caused by the Coronavirus has been immense and all encompassing. Not only was this a health and human catastrophe, it has also resulted in a humanitarian disaster in many countries worldwide. Indeed, the financial, economic, and social costs of the Pandemic have been so humongous and the scars so deep, that the recovery would take a few years or more. Moreover, there is no certainty about the “end point” and whether we would ever return to “normal”.
However, whether by “design or accident”, the Pandemic has ushered in the Digital Age as can be seen by the swift (though not smooth) to the Virtual Mode of Working and Living. As Millions of Professionals turned to Work From Home arrangements, companies worldwide have made WFH the Norm, rather than the exception, so much so that Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers, mainly due to lack of WFH or Hybrid work policies in their organizations.
For a long time, corporates “shied away” from letting employees Work from Home mainly because they were “unsure” of its impact on productivity, team morale, and plain “Luddite Thinking”. However, the Pandemic has changed all that and now more than ever, Big Tech and other firms alike have realized that WFH models can be quite rewarding for both employers and employees as well. So, in a way, the Pandemic has ushered in the Digital Age and maybe, we should be thankful for the some good that has come out of it.
Of course, the Billions of Workers in the Informal Economy and the Non Services sectors do not have the “luxury” of WFH, given that their jobs depend on Physical and Face to Face work. Moreover, there is a significant proportion of the workforce, whose employers are “penny pinchers” as well as like the aforementioned Luddites, for whom Virtual Working is anathema. So, perhaps, the next challenge for the policy making elite would be to work out some way of “transitioning” them to the Digital Economy.
However, even for these and other segments, the Pandemic has “accelerated” their “adoption” of Digital Payments, Online Ordering, Contactless Service, and most importantly, the “habit” of turning to their Smartphones for everything from basic necessities, to interfacing with Governmental and Private Agencies and Service Providers. So, the Pandemic has indeed made the use of Digital Living that much more prevalent and hence, ushered in the Digital Age.
Having said that, there are issues related to the “Digital Divide” that need to be sorted out before we can say that the Digital Age is upon us. For this to happen, we need an all out effort to “hasten” the use of virtual modes of living in a more targeted and focused manner. Embracing Online and App driven services need not be a challenge given the low “entry costs” and the relatively easier “switching costs”. Moreover, the World is already So Interconnected that making the “leap” to Digital Modes of Living need not be a “Moonshot” (literally as well as figuratively). It just needs a bit of Visionary Thinking and Determined Missionary Action.
We book Uber rides, we order food from App based aggregators, groceries online, use WhatsApp to communicate, Facebook to socialize, and LinkedIn to Network. What the Pandemic has done is to increase our “dependence” on Technology, and while this can be both a Good and a Bad Thing (depending on how we use technology, which is “value neutral”), the advent of the Digital Age is there for all to see. With Physicians taking to Telemedicine and Virtual Dance and Yoga Classes, to the very unique Cooking Channels on YouTube, what we have now is vast “web” of Creators and Receptors interacting online and actualizing Wealth Creation that defies the conventional notions of how we work and earn.
Last, as said earlier, there is nothing more bleaker than the Pandemic as far as the Twenty First Century’s Landscape goes. However, if one has to look for some positive, it is that we are now well and truly in the Digital Age and hence, it is my hope that the Global Elite do not miss this chance to bring up the masses of the world to the wonders as well as alert them to the dangers of technology. Technical Literacy and Bridging the Digital Divide can work wonders for humanity and help us realize the dream of a truly integrated world that can confidently face more severe and life altering catastrophes than the Covid Pandemic.
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