Yiannis Faf, co-founder of the crowdfunding app, WhatWeWant slices through the constant stream of negative news and discusses the technological positives that have come from the current pandemic and how technology will help communities and societies around the world.
Attempting to draw positives out of the tragic COVID-19 pandemic can often seem crass. Yet, I cannot escape one nagging thought: imagine how much harder and more severe this crisis would be if it happened 20 or 30 years ago.
In short, this is because modern technology is offering individuals, communities and organisations means of getting through these challenging times that simply would not have been possible in previous generations.
So, to puncture through much of the negative news that consumes our online reading at present, here are six reasons we ought to celebrate the role of the technology we often take for granted.
1. Keeping connected
Perhaps the most obvious way in which we are now relying on technology is for communicating with friends and family. Social distancing means the usual email or text message will no longer suffice; video calls are now essential for maintaining more meaningful relationships.
In fact, in early April WhatWeWant commissioned an independent survey of more than 2,000 UK adults and found that 66% of people had used video calls to stay in contact with people during the lockdown.
The constant battle against unflattering camera angles and poor connections is well worth it for the fact we can engage with loved ones in a more personal way.
2. Staying fit
The lockdown has coincided with people exercising in different ways. People who would not normally jog or cycle are now doing so in an effort to combat an otherwise sedate lifestyle.
Technology has a big hand to play in this. The likes of Joe Wicks are livestreaming exercise classes into people’s homes; exercise apps are letting people monitor their daily workouts and share them with friends; wearable tech, such as Fitbits, enable us to track the amount we are moving (or not moving) as well as our general physical condition.
3. Entertaining us
Rewind 50 years, people in the UK would have had no computer, no internet, no smartphone, a daily newspaper and a TV, if they were lucky, that had just three channels.
Today, the vast majority of homes are filled with a wide variety of technology that can help us while away the time. Movies, music and TV shows can be streamed from a huge number of places and on many devices; entire days can be consumed on just one website; games consoles can connect us with other players around the globe.
Some might point to these things as negatives – as distractions that stop us picking up books, expanding our minds, or stretching our legs. But with so much time on our hands, the proliferation of consumer tech is a blessing in the minds of a great many.
4. Helping us be kind
Here’s a less obvious example of the importance of tech right now: helping people to carry out random acts of kindness. Individuals and communities through to charities and businesses are trying more than ever to help those in need.
According to the aforementioned WhatWeWant study, the majority (53%) of people in the UK say their local community has rallied together during this time of crisis. This includes buying care packages and gifts for the vulnerable, or raising money for a good cause.
Technology is vital in this regard. It is the platform for connecting communities and networks so they can channel their efforts and resources towards a particular goal.
Crowdfunding pages are a prime example of this. At WhatWeWant, we have seen a surge in the number of people calling on crowdfunding technology to do just this. Indeed, without apps and online platforms to raise both awareness and funds in this way, it would be extremely difficult for this kind of collective support to take shape.
5. Managing our finances
Fintech has been a buzzword for the past decade, but the true value of this trend has quickly become apparent.
People are not able to go into their local high street bank or meet with a financial adviser. Yet banking services continue as normal; it is only the way we access them that has changed.
Mobile and online banking, along with AI-powered chatbots and video appointments, are enabling people to keep a handle on their finances. We can open and close accounts, move money around, and check on the health of our balance all without having to leave the sofa.
6. Enabling organisations to function
Without technology, a huge number of businesses would have ground to a halt. As it is, many are able to keep the lights on.
Much of what we are currently doing in a professional capacity would not have been possible before the turn of the Century. Cloud computing, file sharing, instant messaging, communications platforms, video conferencing – all of these advances from the past 20 years have made it relatively easy for teams to work together even when miles apart.
It is easy to take these things for granted. They’re not new and, in some cases, they don’t seem at all impressive or exciting. But we should take a moment to consider how much harder things could be if they were happening several decades ago.
Technology will help us through the pandemic acting as our beacon of hope.
This is not, of course, an exhaustive list. These are merely some of the most common and apparent ways that technology is coming to our aid during this crisis. And it does not even touch upon the integral role of tech in the healthcare space when it comes to actually combatting and containing the virus.
Nevertheless, we ought to be grateful that we have so much amazing technology interwoven into our daily lives. From remaining in touch with friends and on top of our finances through to performing acts of kindness and continuing to work as normal, tech has been a shining light during an otherwise gloomy period.
Yiannis Faf is co-founder of the crowdfunding app, WhatWeWant. The app allows users to upload what they want for an upcoming event for themselves, or someone else. Users can contribute to what their friends and family want as well as notifying them to contribute to whatever you have uploaded. Once enough has been raised, users can simply spend the money. During the Coronavirus pandemic WhatWeWant is donating all fees, including payment provider fees, to the National Emergencies Trust. Here are three examples of great campaigns on the WhatWeWant app that require people’s support: The Mission to Seafarers – Chat to a Chaplain; Protect the NHS – 5000 Face Shield Masks for the NHS; COOK-19 – Providing meals for the NHS.