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How has the health crisis impacted use of information technologies?

by Daniel J. Power

The novel coronavirus pandemic has been impacting our lives for many months. People and organizations have rapidly adopted and used collaborative and cloud-based information technologies for one major reason -- there is no viable alternative to maintain our society. These technologies have helped people continue to work, to socialize, shop, and live. Experience has shown that we need more and better IT solutions to find a new normal. More people need to work and learn remotely, and organizations must upgrade their digital capabilities.

As a species, our dependence upon human contact is an economic and social weakness. We have observed how an infectious disease spreads by human contact. The more deadly the disease the more we need to isolate, quarantine and use Information Technology intermediation. At some point the disease will be "controlled", but we can not return to the processes of the past.

Businesses, schools and colleges are reopening, but life will never be back to normal. More students will continue learning through hybrid IT-based instruction, perhaps alternating between classes in person and virtually on Zoom.

Business, agencies and organizations are having synchronous decision making meetings. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have increased popularity and use. Videotelephony is more widely accepted and understood. Working from home or remote locations using technology is more widely accepted.

Teams are using more collaboration and scheduling tools. Distributed teams are more widely accepted. Working from home will likely continue for some of us.

There are more apps for ordering food products and for other shopping. The delivery economy will grow, especially in large cities.

Location aware apps are assisting with contract tracing. Healthcare professionals and patients have embraced telemedicine and app-based monitoring of wellness information. In this crisis, Information technology has opened a new frontier in mental health support and data collection. There are thousands of mental health apps available in iTunes and Android app stores.

Robotic process automation is changing workflows, including document generation and payment processing. Industrial robots and automated manufacturing are changing production and distribution processes.

There is greater use and acceptance of Artificial Intelligence. According to McKendrick (2020), "KPMG is applying AI approaches to rapidly analyze contractual obligations and termination clauses, as industries face supply chain delays, cancelled events and other roadblocks. ... KPMG also reports developing AI-based tools to supplementing employee and customer call centers to analyze and triage issues and questions."

Sensors for temperature checks are more widely used in airports and office building. There is greater interest in IoT enabled sensors and devices that are used to increase the efficiency of the appliances in a smart building and make it more efficient, sustainable, safer. IT is increasingly used for automatically controlling heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems of a building.

More seniors are adopting information technologies. Etkin (2020) asserts "In 2020, many more older adults own devices with internet capabilities and are able to use them to video chat with family and friends, order groceries, consume content online and even exercise." Families are having FaceTime and Zoom gatherings. Virtual events have provided some new social activities.

More government services are provided online rather than in person.

Clark (2020) notes "When we look back on the current health crisis, there’s no doubt that we’ll learn that it resulted in a number of innovations: new drugs and medical devices, improved healthcare processes, manufacturing and supply chain breakthroughs, novel collaboration techniques." He argues "crisis demands movement and change – the pace of ideation, decision making, and implementation all increase dramatically." The increased use of information technology is likely a permanent change. Our new normal will be a mix of both face-to-face and information technology-mediated activities. Better supply-chains, more automation, and Artificial Intelligence will create a more flexible economy.

References

Clark, L., "Innovation in a Time of Crisis," Harvard Business Publishing, March 26, 2020 at URL https://www.harvardbusiness.org/innovation-in-a-time-of-crisis/

Etkin, K., "OPINION: Technology’s Impact on the Pandemic," nextavenue, April 13, 2020 at URL https://www.nextavenue.org/technology-impact-pandemic/ Jackson, J., "What can technology do for global health?" World Economic Forum, February 4, 2016 at URL https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/02/how-can-we-leverage-technology-to-bridge-the-global-healthcare-divide

McKendrick, J., "3 Ways The Covid-19 Crisis Has Opened Minds About Technology," Forbes, April 17, 2020 at URL https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemckendrick/2020/04/17/3-ways-the-covid-19-crisis-has-opened-minds-toward-technology/#1ca9426a174a Mendoza, N. F., "Pandemic accelerated the adoption and sophistication of IoT technology," TechRebublic, Oct. 2, 2020 at URL https://www.techrepublic.com/article/pandemic-accelerated-the-adoption-and-sophistication-of-iot-technology/

NIMH, "Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment," at URL https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/technology-and-the-future-of-mental-health-treatment/index.shtml

TempCheckin Technology, at URL https://tempcheckin.com/pages/tempcheckin-technology

Xiao, Y. and Z. Fan, "10 technology trends to watch in the COVID-19 pandemic," World Economic Forum, April 27, 2020 at URL https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/10-technology-trends-coronavirus-covid19-pandemic-robotics-telehealth/

Last update: 2020-10-10 10:03
Author: Daniel Power

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