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Practical Techie: Pandemic year has strong impact on digital media

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an inevitable surge in the use of digital technologies due to the social distancing norms and nationwide lockdowns. People and organizations all over the world have had to adjust to new ways of work and life. We explore possible scenarios of the digital surge and the research issues that arise.

An increase in digitalization is leading firms and educational institutions to shift to work-from-home. Blockchain technology will become important and will entail research on design and regulations. Gig workers and the gig economy is likely to increase in scale, raising questions of work allocation, collaboration, motivation, and aspects of work overload and presenteeism.

Workplace monitoring and technostress issues will become prominent with an increase in digital presence. Online fraud is likely to grow, along with research on managing security. The regulation of the internet, a key resource, will be crucial post-pandemic.

Research may address the consequences and causes of the digital divide. Further, the issues of net neutrality and zero-rating plans will merit scrutiny. A key research issue will also be the impact and consequences of internet shutdowns, frequently resorted to by countries. Digital money, too, assumes importance in crisis situations and research will address their adoption, consequences, and mode. Aspects of surveillance and privacy gain importance with increased digital usage.

It is a known fact that the coronavirus pandemic affected more than 200 countries and territories in the world.

The ensuing lockdowns on colleges, schools, malls, temples, offices, airports, and entertainment venues, even workspaces resulted in millions taking to the internet and web services to communicate and interact, to a 95% usage at peak hours.

The pandemic brought the world to a situation where those not connected to the Internet face total exclusion. Meetings are completely online, office work shifting to the home, with even more new emerging patterns of work and socializing.

Thus, those on the wrong side of the digital divide are will be completely left out as video-conferencing services like Zoom, Microsoft, and Google Meet see a ten-fold increase in Internet traffic.

Access becomes a necessity for professional survival and health services, so ensuring connectivity is a must for governments. The basic principles of net neutrality must prevail, guaranteeing equal priority and cost to all for access to Internet traffic.

Though the pandemic is receding or stabilized in certain countries, social distancing is still at the core of the new normal and Internet usage does will not subside. As a post-pandemic world rears its face slowly on the horizon, the impact on digital vitality takes on many forms.

BANDWIDTH — Heavy use of the Internet during the pandemic has raised people’s data requirements. Work from home is a new, irreversible norm.

With employees becoming acclimatized to the idea of work-from-home, meeting and transacting online, the use of video- and audio-conferencing tools increases significantly.  This will push firms to increase their technology with deep investment in bandwidth expansion, network equipment, and software that leverages cloud services. Without the ramping up, many organizations will not be able to handle the required load.

EDUCATION — Asynchronous teaching platforms like Moodle, Blackboard, EdX, and Coursera have also seen a dramatic hike in enrolments as the shift moves to the online classroom model. Live modes of teaching will always prevail but to a 60% only from 2021 on.  In fact, some institutions are now shifting entirely to the online mode with the exception of sessions that require a physical presence, such as lab and sports education. Again, this impacts the digital divide. There will be a need for subsidized internet devices, free extra data, or waiving off users’ subscription fees for schools.

TECH — Digital transformation technologies such as Cloud, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Blockchain (BC), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML), constitute a bulk of what is being adopted by organizations as part of their transformation effort to the new norms. This brings with it another aspect of digital use by the working population, including the sense of being on the job constantly and workplace monitoring. This is already defined as “technostress.”

Psychological support and design for this kind of work will be required in the post-pandemic period due to work overload and pressure to be virtually “present” most of the time. Add to that the continuous learning the new tech requires.

Performance is key, and employees will be monitored continually during video conferencing work. They will need to cope with multi-tasking and hyper-focusing is mandatory.

FRAUD — Another impact of the pandemic year is online fraud, scams, intrusions, and security breaches. Cybercriminals and fraudsters have discovered new illegal gigs by exploiting vulnerabilities in the crisis situation since so many users are now relying on digital resources extensively. Scams, fraudulent money extractions, and cybersecurity breaches will multiply. Security innovations and firms that offer security services will rise. Liability for e-commerce is evermore a prevalent danger. 

MONEYLESS – Printer money and coins are now considered “dirty money” in terms of carrying the virus. Digital payments and virtual currencies promise a key role in the post-pandemic situation. Because digital payments are contact-less governments surely will encourage them as another new norm. Digital payment and electronic modes of fund transfer will prevail in the post-pandemic stages of the economy.

In summary, with the pandemic, the internet has become the most important tool available to citizens. Any impact of reduced access, shrinking bandwidth, or Internet shutdowns will make things grimmer to a wide range of sectors, including education, healthcare, news media, and e-commerce.

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.

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