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Five Ways Technology Is Helping Us Pull through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

According to Statista, there are currently around 4.5 billion smartphones in the world. This is a rise of 1 billion smart devices in people's pockets compared to four years ago.

The ubiquitous nature of modern technology--the ways in which it has woven itself into the very fabric of our day-to-day lives--is not a new talking point. However, it is often a subject that attracts scorn from some quarters, with many critics urging us to rethink our reliance on the digital world.

In light of the tragic and far reaching implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to stop and take a minute to consider just how fortunate we are to have the technology we do at a time like this.

With that in mind, here are five ways in which tech has and will enable individuals, communities and businesses to pull through this crisis.

1. Keeping us connected

The most obvious benefit of technology that many of us will be grateful for at present is its ability to keep us connected. The staple forms of communication between friends and families--texts, emails, social media and instant messaging have been supported by video technology that had, for much of society, gone unused until this year.

Simply put, many people have realised that amidst the lockdown's social distancing and isolation measures, texting is no longer enough; video calls are now hugely important for maintaining a deeper, more meaningful social connection with those we are close to.

In early April WhatWeWant commissioned an independent survey of more than 2,000 UK adults, and the findings underline this point. We found that 66% of people have used video calls to stay in contact with people during the lockdown. This was particularly true of millennials (those aged between 18 and 34), with 78% of the younger generation using these tools--but the majority of over-55s (55%) are also using this technology on a regular basis. With smartphones, tablets and laptops already being in the vast majority of homes around the developed world, we are now starting to realise the capabilities of these devices.

2. Carrying out acts of kindness

In my opinion, one of the shining lights to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic is that we are increasingly seeing people--from individuals and charities through to businesses and local communities--performing random acts of kindness.

According to WhatWeWant's aforementioned research, the majority (53%) of UK adults say their local community has rallied together during this time of crisis. For example, two fifths (41 %) of people have bought and delivered food to someone who lives near them, and 27% have sent a gift to someone close to them to help lift their spirits.

Technology is essential in enabling these acts of kindness. Social media, digital news, online shopping and delivery services--many of us would be hard pressed to offer support to good causes if it wasn't for technology

Crowdfunding pages are one of the best examples of this. Local businesses, groups of friends, and whole neighbourhoods are setting up crowdfunding pages to raise money for good causes--a local restaurant, for example, might raise money so it can cover the costs of producing dozens of meals for doctors and nurses. Colleagues, meanwhile, might all chip in to buy a gift for someone in their organisation who has been badly affected by COVID-19.

At WhatWeWant, we have seen a surge in the number of people calling on crowdfunding technology to do just this. Indeed, without apps and online platforms to raise both awareness and funds in this way, it would be extremely difficult for this kind of collective support to take shape.

3. Tech startups answering the call

Tech startups around the world are also picking up the mantle. They are pivoting, removing fees and launching new initiatives to help those in need.

To offer some general examples: healthtech startups are building apps for national healthcare systems so they can track the spread of COVID-19 and offer support to those with the virus; food delivery apps that previously served the restaurant industry are now allowing consumers to order groceries instead; and online education platforms have removed their fees so parents can access valuable home-learning resources for their children.

At WhatWeWant, with more people now using our app to create crowdfunding pages for acts of kindness, we have pivoted our financial model so that all fees go directly to the National Emergencies Trust charity. It is a simple change but one that ensures the business does not profit at a time of hardship, but instead further encourages people to care for others.

Positively, cases like this are easy to find--the tech startup community both in the UK and around the world has demonstrated an ability as well as a willingness to harness technology as a force for good.

4. Managing our finances

Fintech; this has been a buzzword for over a decade now, but the trend of financial services being delivered via digital solutions is extremely important.

At a time when people cannot visit their local high street bank or meet with a financial adviser, they need other ways to access services and support. Mobile and online banking, along with Al-powered chatbots and video appointments, are filling the void.

These fintech solutions are not new, of course. But like the video technology mentioned earlier, there are large pockets of society only now realising the value of this tech.

5. Working remotely

And finally, technology has been completely essential for businesses to keep functioning and people to keep working. Again, for many this had been apparent for some time, but for others the world of remote working was a new and strange one.

Cloud computing, file sharing, instant messaging, communications platforms, video conferencing--all of these advances from the past 20 years have made it relatively easy for teams to work together even when miles apart.

It is easy to take these things for granted. They're not new and, in some cases, they don't seem at all impressive or exciting. But we should take a moment to consider how much harder things could be if they were happening several decades ago.

From remaining in touch with friends and staying on top of our finances through to performing acts of kindness and continuing to work as normal, we should be grateful that we have so much amazing technology incorporated into our day-to-day lives that makes these things possible.

Yiannis Faf CEO and co-founder, WhatWeWant.
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Author:Faf, Yiannis
Publication:Database and Network Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2020
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