In the ocean of projections on how Coronavirus will reshape the world, one claim stands out – we return to the medium is the message, and the chosen medium this time around is digital; one where produsers (producer + user) are key consumers/ stakeholders.
We’ve grown up witnessing within the media ecosystem firms like Google and Facebook using the Global South as a test bed for fresh and unfettered forms of data collection, where it’s business-like models shape our ideas, and how information circulates. Confronted with coronavirus, the same mechanisms are being rolled out abruptly, globally; with such business-like models led by corporations becoming progressively for-profit and central to states’ administration of their welfare systems.
In addition, Covid–19 further forced companies over the technology tipping point – and forever-transformed communication – at business, borders and back home.
In the past few months, we’ve all witnessed a hustled-up adoption of digital technologies ahead by several years and many of these changes could be here long haul. Companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by five years. The overall percentages of digitally-enabled products in their portfolios have accelerated by a deplorable decade, on business timelines. Companies have stood up at least temporary solutions to meet many of the new demands on them, and much more quickly than they had thought possible before the crisis. When one thinks of the impact of the crisis on a range of measures, digital initiatives investments are manifold, and it continues to steer spotlight more than anything else – more than increases in costs, the number of people in tech roles, and the number of customers, services, and supplies.
To stay competitive in business and economic environment, there needs to be new tactics and policies. It’s taken us a pandemic to realise technology’s strategic importance as a critical component of business, and not just a source of cost efficiencies. As a tech-entrepreneur, who earlier needed to convince people to take to digital mode, having the range of technology capabilities hitherto overlooked, this comes as such relief. But there are newer, loftier worries.
A couple of decades ago, several societies, without exactly intending to, delegated to digital platforms the restructure of the spaces where human beings meet, discounting the conceivable social penalties. The result today is a media ecosystem where corporations are in full control due to constant surveillance of our personal and professional lives in the name of ‘social good’.
There is no evidence that these corporations are insincere about their desire to help. Nor it can be said that their work will not save lives; in all probability, it will. Yet the repercussions of a digital wider society are much more ambiguous – now, more than ever before, creating kinder content is crucial. Using the Internet “free space” judiciously so each one of us has equal and efficient access is eminent. Netizen management will be another grave concern; health and welfare are just two areas of netizens’ management affected; others may be education, labour infrastructure, and law enforcement. There will be confrontation, no doubt, and this transformation is unlikely to happen equivalently, globally. Regulation of online media platforms, policies and how content, data is exchanged, in most cases ‘given’ by many to few, are pressing concerns that need to be addressed instantly.
No one intended for it to be this way – but it’s here, as is the pandemic, and as we learn to live in our new ‘normal’, let’s not forget the internet - our virtual world is our only saviour when the physical world seems ‘not-accessible’. Using it judiciously is our responsibility; and being kinder now, is non negotiable.