Digital technology has radically changed how we do things in recent decades. Then out of the blue came COVID-19 respiratory infection which itself has changed almost all aspects of our lives. For almost two years we have all been condemned to staying at home in our effort to reduce contact with people and reduce the spread of the infection. Two years is a very long time be it in politics, football and in just simple ordinary lives.
It is now clear to most of us that somehow life and business have to continue as much as possible during the pandemic.
Thankfully, digital technology has enabled us to come up with new ways of doing business, of how we work, how we trade and how we learn. Some of these services were there pre-COVID-19 but the pandemic has pushed them to the fore front. This demands that we all strive to raise our technical literacy to operate in this new environment.
Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) an American writer, futurist and businessman once said:
“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
He was warning businesses about accepting and adapting to the dynamic digital transformation to thrive.
I would say that the warning remains equally relevant to each one of us if we are to make use of the fast changing digital technology. Each generation of technology is better than the last.
I for one have chosen to empty myself of what I know so as to be able to learn more for as long as I am able.
Here are some examples of how technology has enabled me and many others to live some form of normal life during these times of the pandemic lockdowns and quarantines.
- Connectivity- man is a social animal that thrives best in a group or in contact with others. The lockdown and quarantines continue to threaten this essential element. But then it becomes a “catch- 22 situation”- you have to be alive to enjoy communication with others. Access to the internet enables us to make calls almost anywhere in the world. I can make video calls, online chats, text, and arrange for Zoom meetings with family, friends and colleagues.
I have been attending virtually the 10 am church service at my local church regularly. I have attended many virtual funeral services and burials for family and friends. I have attended weddings too. At the end of it all, I am thankful that somehow I have been part of the function during these times of social distancing.
- Online shopping- Pre-COVID, I had bought a few things online in Botswana.The conservative in me always preferred that I saw things and even touched them. In the middle of the last lockdown last year, my phone broke down. Having been away for some decades I am yet to familiarise myself with what is available on the market be it a set of saucepans or knives. I had to buy a new phone to stay in contact with family and friends.
I had heard of Jumia– the largest online retail store in Uganda but had never used its services. I checked it out , then consulted my two sons about the type of phone to buy. Satisfied, I paid for it and had it delivered by a masked courier a day later. My communication lifeline has since then remained open and fully functional. My daughter passed on to me her “old faithful” boda boda courier to help me with grocery shopping and delivery services. He has proved to be reliable and punctual. The mobile phone remains our main way of communication
- Remote learning- Pre-COVID, I was attending some writers’ webinars to hone my writing skills. Stuck in our homes, we have a lot of time to ourselves. The webinars have increased and can be tailored to one’s needs.
Many of my young relatives are at university. they have been able to continue with their studies through online schooling. Unfortunately, the same approach cannot be used in primary and secondary education as the majority of students live in the rural areas and have no internet access. The COVID-19 crisis has drawn attention to this big gap between the unconnected and the urban connected.
- Remote working- as life and business have to continue during these social distancing times, many young relatives working as bankers, lawyers, engineers work from home. Among the challenges they face is the low internet capacity and slow speed.
For those working in the health care sectors, they still have to report in person as digital health care solutions are extremely limited in a developing country like mine.
I stopped taking things for granted and learned to be more grateful for what I have. During these times of lockdown and quarantine, I greatly appreciate how digital technology if not abused, makes our lives easy and faster. Much of what the digital world offers can be accessed for free. Digital technology has kept us connected, informed, educated, entertained and allowed us to share our stories.
Life could have been worse without it. Technology continues to change,to make the changes less threatening, each generation is better than the last. I shudder to imagine the new high end technology that has already started flowing in and how our physical world would have been improved three years from now.
The Onus is on us, to become responsible users- engaging with it safely, respectfully and ethically while at the same time opening ourselves up to learn new things, unlearn and relearn. The digital world has a lot of promise.
QUESTION: How is the cell phone and internet access enabling you to live some form of normal life during these times of lockdown and quarantine?