Corona Pandemic Has Forced Innovative Use Of Technologies

Each time a calamity hits us we realise that Nature is a big leveller. The COVID-19 pandemic struck us unexpectedly, engulfing people across boundaries with unimaginable speed and menace.

In Odisha, people were rejoicing in the new look of the famous Lord Jagannath Temple barely a month before and the state government had taken a number of steps for growth of tourism. Business organisations were hoping to wind up a good year with record profits. The novel coronavirus was a shocker for all of us.

The announcement of lockdown for 21 days made millions of people scurry to their homes, bringing life to a standstill. There was a fearful social isolation, as venturing out of home meant inviting a risk to life. The streets became silent, only coming to life when an occasional passerby was stopped by patrolling police.

When the Government announced the lock down, it exempted some sectors to give essential services, which included the IT/ITES. This is because when the entire consumer base is in lockdown and millions are forced to work from home, digital connectivity has taken over. The unexpected COVID times have brought in a new era where innovative use of existing and new technologies and tools is being done. The barriers to access technology are visibly lowered with millions hooked to their systems. People now seek options to shop online with groceries and essential commodities being a top priority.

In all cities, the senior citizens living alone are among the worst-hit. Facing the highest risks, in the absence of domestic help, they are forced to come out to buy essential goods. The need for safe and non-physical stores has thus become imperative today. This is the challenge manufacturers and suppliers will have to address now and scale up in future. Taking this a step further, big warehouses will need to use sanitized robots to put ‘COVID safe packaging’ in place.

Online shopping subscriptions, remote query handling centres and innovative cross-selling will become the new mode of marketing. To meet the felt need of a customer to pick and choose a product Artificial and Virtual Reality (A/VR) technology will be adopted. China, the country with the highest population and the origin of corona virus, has provided insights to harness ground-breaking technology for the current crisis. It is using QR codes of WeChat and Alipay to leverage location data and track individuals who have travelled and are exposed to health risks. E-commerce options are used to the maximum and tech health screening of food delivery drivers is done for consumer assurance. To come up to a level, we may start with basic functionality offered by smart phones for product discovery and mobile payments. The industry needs to keep its bare functioning alive through remote offices and work from home.

The corona virus outbreak is a human tragedy and will affect our global economy like never before. With a proactive government, we have various industry forums forming task forces today and all their discussions are coordinated online. The primary objectives are providing personal protective equipment, including masks, sanitizers, etc and identification of isolation and quarantine centres.

The most vulnerable in society are bearing the brunt. Lakhs of daily wage labourers are jobless with the lockdown; the government, foundations and NGOs are coming forward to sustain them for now. But it is a tough battle and only the fittest will survive. Everyone is affected majorly by this pandemic.

We will have to wait to see how this unexpected COVID time will lead us to a different world from the one we live in today.

(The author is an entrepreneur)

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