#CTIF2020: Covid-19 is changing our societal values

The proliferation of the Coronavirus could be an opportunity to develop new people-centred values and practices

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Covid-19: reshaping the norm webinar allowed panellists to share their reflections and speculations on potential implications of health pandemics on civic tech communities.

Craig Wing, strategist/futurist and partner at FutureWorld, who delivered the keynote address reflected on how the Coronavirus infections continue to rise daily and how it is changing the world — prime example being stock markets around the world falling drastically.

As far as the civic tech and social innovation community is concerned Wing said Covid-19 is a wake up call to direct such communities towards people-based approaches and redirect how we perceive our daily lives. He added that tech tools are being used to detect infected people.

“The virus allows us to rethink what we perceive as important as a society. Is it really GDP growth and economic growth or better quality of life and standards of living? Capitalism and growth have been previously and continue to be put at the forefront and are perceived as the ‘best’ thing for society but is it really?”

“These are the values and norms we must begin to question going forward as I do not think Covid-19 is just a flash in the pan but it is something that needs us to reshape our values.”

Koketso Moeti, founding executive director of Amandla.mobi, said people are re-evaluating their values and in some ways, this virus is re-emphasising existing inequalities in our society. She suggested increasing transparency of the individuals who have a hand in the current situations and are benefiting from these situations.

Deborah Byrne, programme lead at Oxfam also said that shifting economic models (capitalism) towards a people-centred approach will make people’s lives easier and efficient at this time. The state is neoliberal, in that it feeds capitalism, and civil society has seen fractures post-1994. She added that civic tech should draw inspiration from this pandemic and find ways to support communities and societies such as taxi ranks and township malls.

“The state should step up their role and the civic tech community needs to orientate towards addressing the needs of those most affected,” said Byrne.

Founder of Open Cities Lab, Richard Gevers, also added onto Wing’s point. He believes society needs to think how this pandemic could potentially change our realities. “Consider restructuring office operations and this can be facilitated by tech (apps) to make communication efficient.”

Gevers suggested the following apps for office operations:

He explained that these tech tools could help make civil society more connected and efficient in voicing out their opinions going forward as the world is uncertain about the long term effects of the virus.

“Various resources are available for companies and organisations; these will help citizens going forward. Organisations also need to begin reaching out to donors to enable people to work remotely and there needs to be more openness and transparency to those who have little to no access to these networks or technologies and tools (data). These are just some human-centred practices and values we could begin implementing,” said Gevers.

Byrne raised the issue of data costs. “Vodacom has decided to cut down data costs. There is an urgent call for non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations need to show up for this call.”

Moeti added, “Access is a key element in this time. Misinformation is critical in times like these — it reduces the impact of factual information. So access to data is a real concern now, companies should be zero-rated to broaden or extend basic access. Mobile data operators should provide 3GB per day per household and increase the number of SMS's people can have. Distance has consequences. Access to data will enable greater channels in which people connect.”

The speakers agreed that during this pandemic humans need to connect more and this shows us that the internet is a utility that is needed and access to the internet is a human right, not a luxury.

Going forward the CSOs, NGOs, social innovation and civic tech communities need to stay creative. Everything we do going forward should be about value-based practices and not about cashing in on the Covid-19.

Watch the webinar here

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