Chad Everett Harris Discusses the Importance of Technology Amid COVID-19
Trying to imagine what life was like before technology feels next to impossible. In general, technology has altered the ways in which we view entertainment, how we communicate, our ability to travel, and has helped us stimulate social change within our societies. It is safe to say that technology has made life simpler, more convenient, and infinitely more enjoyable. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we have become even more reliant on technology to help get us through everyday life. As the virus continues to spread globally, governments are leveraging technology to help flatten the curve, from developing healthcare apps to the use of robotics.
According to Google Stats, there have been a total of 5.11M confirmed cases, 1.95M recoveries, and 333K deaths due to the pandemic. While technology is playing a key role in keeping our society functional during this time, experts believe technology will have an on-going impact on society beyond COVID-19. Chad Everett Harris is a serial entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in the green industry, primarily the construction, retail, and e-commerce sectors. Harris discusses six ways in which technology has been benefiting society since the outbreak began.
Telehealth & Other Healthcare Apps
Telemedicine has been around for the last four decades, although it has been growing exponentially in the last five years, according to the American Telemedicine Association. The lower cost of telecommunications and technology, in combination with high-speed Internet, has allowed for greater use of Telehealth services across the world. Telehealth works by linking patients with their healthcare team, usually over videoconferencing, to examine patients virtually. Virtual visits have played a vital role in helping to contain the spread of COVID-19 by allowing doctors and patients to connect safely at a distance while also minimizing the risk of infection. Virtual care lets physicians screen patients, assess patient symptoms, explain treatment options, monitor progress, communicate with patient caregivers, connect with colleagues, and more.
Long time rivals, Apple and Google, have come together to release a new smartphone technology that automatically notifies people in the event that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The application uses Bluetooth technology to detect when one app user comes into close contact with another app user that later tests positive for COVID-19. The tech giants stated recently that they are not trying to replace contact tracing with their software. Contact tracing involves healthcare staff working with an infected patient to recall everyone they might have had contact with while they were infectious. However, the companies’ new notification system can help slow the spread of the virus by stopping potential virus carriers from interacting with others before they start showing symptoms.
Mental Health Applications
While social distancing measures are helping stop the spread of coronavirus, a sudden decline in social interaction is causing people to report heightened feelings of depression and anxiety. Between April 13th and April 20th, YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker reported that three in five Americans are worried that they will contract the coronavirus. Other research indicates that several Americans are also struggling to cope with the sudden loss of loved ones and/or are struggling to pay their bills, leading to additional mental health issues. Chad E. Harris notes that many smartphone apps have been scientifically proven to help individuals cope with anxiety. For example, a meditation app called Headspace has begun offering free services to specific groups of people to help them cope with everyday stresses, including Headspace for Healthcare Professionals, Headspace for Work, and Headspace for Educators. Other popular meditation apps include Calm, Insight Timer, Aura, Sattva, YogaGlo, Inscape, and Buddhify.
Social Media & Video Platforms
For a while, social platforms started to receive a bad reputation as a result of invasive ads and data collection, trolls and cyberbullies, as well as unreliable news. However, the pandemic has returned social platforms to their previous glory, as they have proven essential to providing a sense of community and emotional support during the crisis. According to a recent study, social media usage has magnified since the COVID-19 outbreak. A study of 25,000 consumers across 30 markets indicates that engagement has swelled by more than 60 percent over normal usage rates. More specifically, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp messaging have increased by fifty percent in the countries most affected by the pandemic. Harris emphasizes that social media (including video chat) has replaced going out and spending time with friends during social distancing restrictions. For example, applications like HouseParty have enabled groups of people to experience virtual get-togethers and play games online.
The World Economic Forum has announced that since the beginning of April, 191 countries have implemented school closures, which has affected 1.57B students worldwide. Soon after Governments put social distancing guidelines in place, educational institutions at all levels began offering online courses to minimize disruptions that could impact students learning. Before the pandemic, only 1.7M children were home schooled in the United States compared to a national school population of 56.6M. There are several technologies involved in distant learning, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, and AI robot enabled teachers. In the U.S, a learning app called Seesaw has experienced ten times more usage since schools were shutdown. Essentially, Seesaw allows students to build a digital portfolio of their photos, videos, drawings, and text, which can then be shared with teachers and parents. Harris believes that technology will continue to be heavily incorporated into students’ learning even after COVID-19.
Governments around the world have issued non-essential business closures, citing that companies that can work from home must do so to help contain the virus. Working remotely has been made easier thanks to a myriad of technologies including, virtual private networks, voice over internet protocols, virtual meetings, cloud technology, and work collaboration tools. There have been major benefits to working from home, such as savings on transportation costs, commute time, and increased flexibility. Chad Everett Harris notes that one of the most popular applications that he has been using to connect with his own employees during quarantine is Zoom. The Zoom app is a video conferencing tool that allows users to connect online. In addition, users are able to record sessions, collaborate on projects, share screens, and more.
Online Shopping & Delivery
COVID-19 has had a major effect on virtual shopping. Due to mass store closures, consumers have been forced to shop online for a lot of products. E-commerce stores that have experienced an increase in sales include Amazon, Flipkart, and Alibaba. Online shopping has been complemented by the CDC’s public acknowledgement that there is likely a low risk of spreading coronavirus through products ordered online. Packages that have been in shipment for at least several days and have been traveling in ambient temperatures are unlikely to be contaminated. Chad Harris says to deliver consumer goods that have been ordered online, several companies and restaurants across the U.S. and China are launching contactless delivery services that involve dropping off goods at a designated location instead of handing them off to the purchaser. Moreover, China’s largest e-commerce companies have even launched robot delivery services in an attempt to limit person-to-person contact.
It has become evident that technology is a major proponent in our everyday lives, and further advancements in technology will only increase our dependence on it. Harris believes tech is one of the most important industries as it plays a critical role in nearly every business. Specifically, healthcare, education, shopping, logistics, and businesses have all experienced support from the tech industry throughout the global crisis.