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Opportunities created by the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID 19 pandemic took the world by storm and changed a lot in every part of human society. Leaving about 219 million infected and killing 4.54 million people around the world, led to the closure of schools, left the healthcare system overburdened, made employees lose their jobs, businesses failed, stock markets crashed, and countries were forced to spend billions on bailouts and medical help.


The pandemic affected even the most basic and overlooked part of human activities as we now have to practise social distancing, wear nose masks when outside, stay indoors almost all the time, smile more with our eyes, and nod or wave our greetings, our intimate connections have been drastically impacted. As we gradually recover from the negative impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, and several solutions both from individuals, corporations and governments across the world, brought policies and methods to hasten changes and bring about technological advancements faster than we had expected, this they did by abiding by the popular saying “never squander a crisis, as they identify critical risks, to ensure that the global economy and society can recover in a rebuilt world.

In certain circumstances, the Covid-19-inspired technical innovations will be the acceleration of current trends, such as industrial automation and contactless payments. Other innovations such as virtual reality, 3D printing, or telehealth, allowed businesses to exhibit value that customers had previously been unable or unwilling to recognize. The OECD Science, Technology, and Innovation Outlook 2021, published in January 2021, highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to harm innovation systems in the long run, at a time when science and innovation are most needed to address the climate emergency, meet the SDGs, and accelerate digital transformation. It emphasized the importance of countries implementing measures to protect their innovation systems as part of their stimulus and recovery packages. It also advocated for a shift in STI policy to support a more ambitious system transformation agenda that promotes a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future.

However, the pandemic also ushered in new opportunities to different sectors of our society.
 
 

OPPORTUNITIES CREATED BY THE PANDEMIC

1.    Telehealth: It brought about more need for wearables such as smartwatches etc, and VR to make healthcare more accessible. To deal with the congested hospital capacity, stressed-out health workers and risk of infection, patients and healthcare providers quickly adopted telehealth services and remote health monitoring. 

Due to social isolation and lockdown measures, mental health treatments and gyms became unavailable. While remote technology in healthcare and related fields had previously been greeted with scepticism, this changed in the aftermath of the pandemic. Prior to Covid-19, fitness trackers and other “quantified self” technologies had already gained acceptance in the health and wellness industry. For example, in November 2019, Google announced the acquisition of Fitbit as part of a larger plan to compete with Apple and its Apple Watch product in the healthcare technology area. Wearables and other health monitoring technology that enable diagnostics took centre stage as experts stressed the significance of prompt testing and tracking in controlling the Covid-19 issue.

2.    Robotic Delivery and Online Shopping: COVID-19 has changed the way people purchase online all around the world. Because in-person delivery is not virus-proof, online shopping is progressively being taken over by a robot logistics system. In the United States and China, many delivery companies and restaurants are developing contactless delivery services, in which things are picked up and dropped off at a predetermined location rather than from or into the hands of a person.

E-commerce behemoths in China are likewise accelerating the development of robot delivery. However, before robot delivery systems become widely used, delivery companies must create clear rules to ensure that things are delivered in a sanitary state.



3.    E-Learning: By mid-April 191 countries, including Bangladesh, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela amongst others had declared or implemented school or university closures which affected 1.57 billion students. In a bid to ensure that education was not impeded by quarantine restrictions, many educational Institutions began providing courses online. Virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, and artificial-intelligence-enabled robot teachers are among the technologies used in distant learning. Concerns about distant learning, however, include the likelihood that the technologies will widen the digital divide between people of different income levels. Distance schooling may also put a financial strain on parents, particularly women.

4.    3D Printing: 3D printing technology has helped to reduce supply chain disruptions and export limitations on personal protective equipment. It allows for production flexibility as the same printer can make a variety of goods using multiple design files and materials, and simple parts may be made rapidly on-site without the need for a lengthy procurement process or a long wait for shipping. 

5.    Telecommuting Software: Before the Covid-19 outbreak, conferencing systems like Skype and Zoom were seen as optional by businesses. Once remote work restrictions were adopted to stop the virus from spreading, the use of these tools skyrocketed. Video conferencing is expected to account for half of the remote work market in the next five years, up from 10% to 15% currently. Every industry must adapt to the difficulties of a distributed workforce.

6.    Chatbots: Before the Covid-19 epidemic, conversational agents were heavily used in customer service functions in the banking, healthcare, and retail sectors. Chatbots and virtual assistants became more vital than ever when face-to-face customer care encounters got increasingly constrained. Many shops have embraced chatbots as part of broader social media engagement initiatives, recognizing the need to reach customers where they are.

H&M and Sephora, for example, established conversational agents on Kik, while Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger launched their chatbots on Facebook Messenger.

7.    Contactless Payments: Due to increased worry that the coronavirus can be spread through physical touch, the long-term adoption of contactless payment methods have become more feasible. Following the pandemic, people swung significantly in favour of contactless payment methods. According to Mastercard Acceptance Solutions Vice President Blake Rosenthal: “Social distance encompasses not just people’s relationships with one another, but also their interactions with publicly shared technology such as point-of-sale systems and checkout counters. Consumers benefit from a safer, cleaner method to pay, faster checkout times, and greater control over physical proximity at this crucial time.”

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of technological advancement in every aspect of human life. Building the necessary cadre to support society and keeping up with the latest technology will be important for any business or government to be competitive in the post-COVID-19 era.
 
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