A new world after the coronavirus pandemic
As the indomitable Coronavirus continues its reign over the world, the lifestyle of mankind has changed drastically. People have been maintaining social distancing, started working from home, finding time to engage more with the family, and slowing down on business activities. This change in lifestyle will have a lasting effect even in the post-COVID-19 world. The fear in people's mind, the time they have now to themselves, the pause in the rat-race will create a different world for the generations of the future.
The home-office concept will be the most enduring practice in the post-COVID-19 world. Businesses will encourage their employees more and more to work from home whenever possible. This will not only save the overhead of space, utility bills and other resources, but will also enable business owners to negotiate with the employees regarding flexible remuneration. From a bigger aspect, this telecommuting will help lessen traffic congestion reducing air-pollution as a result. This will also change some social norms improving familial relationship. To make this remote workplace a success, the demand for a robust internet infrastructure will be reinforced. Video-conferencing systems, collaboration tools, etc. will see an array of new features. The norms for meetings will change. Online meetings will not have refreshments, although they still may have remuneration/compensation paid to the attendees through electronic transfers.
We shall see an increased number of online courses in the post-COVID-19 society. Digital classrooms will help the students to stay at wherever they are and participate in the classes. Online courses with pre-recorded lectures will enable students to access the resources at their own pace. The assessment or exam system will also see a big change, where an examinee will have the option to keep books or notes open yet will have to answer using his/her knowledge.
The demand of skilled professionals in 2D & 3D animation will rise significantly. Online courses, remote discussions will need more digital contents. Video-editing and multimedia tools will see new demands. Digital graphics rendering and editing skills will be sought-after. AI will be omnipresent and be used in many applications, including home-appliances, automobiles, machineries, health-services, agro-processing and entertainment. Although AI gone rogue is a real possibility, businesses will increasingly use Artificial Intelligence for efficiency and cost-cutting. IoT coupled with Big Data and AI will be used to monitor the environment, be it a factory premise or the national weather. Such applications will result in more effective early warning systems against adversities making us more prepared in advance.
The social-distancing practiced by all during the ongoing pandemic situation will teach us to use distributed systems ever more. This will bring Blockchain technology into the forefront of all transaction related activities. The cogency and transparency of this technology will make it the gold standard in maintaining all databases.
The travel industry will see a big shift in the habits of the travellers and adventure-seekers. The practice of traveling to multiple cities in a week will stop. People will be using cars more for domestic travels to avoid crowd in an airport terminal or train station. Large cruise-ships may not be very popular anymore. Travelling in small groups will become more common. Trekking and other adventure sports may thrive as not many tourists are into it. Brick and mortar travel agencies will go out of business, while online travel sites may not be able to pull through the losses they will encounter during the current lockdown, unless they diversify and start offering customised packages. Larger hotels and hospitality industry in general will also see a slowdown. Although, smaller hotels may stand resilient to this change of behaviour of the travellers.
Health sector will experience a sea of change. The unpreparedness for tackling the COVID-19 will teach the health service providers a good lesson. Doctors, nurses, paramedics and most importantly the administrators will be extra cautious in the post-coronavirus era. Governments across the world will allocate a good portion of the annual budget for development of the health sector. Large corporates and philanthropists will come forward to build more hospitals. The healthcare workers will see an acute demand in countries like Bangladesh, where the patient-doctor or patient-nurse ratio is quite poor. It may be mentioned that, for every 10,000 people, Bangladesh has only 3 doctors and 1 nurse. The nursing profession will see a rise in social acceptance and become a sought-after occupation. The health-equipment manufacturers will invest in R&D and will come up with lost-cost solutions. The hospitals will invest in more sophisticated equipment in detecting illnesses.
Telemedicine will thrive in the post-coronavirus days. People will take medical advices from doctors remotely more and more. To avoid the crowd in the hospitals or at a doctor's chamber, patients will seek virtual consultations from doctors over video-chats. Physical pharmacies may see less and less customers, as they will prefer their medicines to be delivered at their doorstep. With recurring orders or subscriptions, delivery of medicines will also become a new normal.
The entertainment industry will flourish in the post-COVID-19 society, although theatres and movie halls may see decline in the number of their patrons. Although online streaming will be the standard, television may experience a small comeback as people will go out less in public places. Interactive movies and network games will take over the entertainment industry. Gaming consoles will see a sharp rise, with new features. State-of-the-art games powered by AI and correlated to movies will become the new thing. Interactive reality TV will be a new standard. In the post-coronavirus world, people will be hesitant to use touch-screens. Therefore, other methods of inputs, such as voice commands or gestures, will become more and more popular. This will apply to computers, tablets, phones, kiosks, remote-controllers—anything that requires touching or pressing buttons. Voice-recognition and text-to-speech and speech-to-text technologies will improve and will be able to function correctly across languages and dialects.
We shall be attending many events digitally. Celebrations, felicitations, award ceremonies, concerts, prayer congregations, even weddings will be happening online through various industry-standard interactive collaboration tools. Digital events will have no issues regarding physical capacity. Participants from all over the world will be joining these events, and this will be the new natural. While I don't foresee that in-person events will be changed entirely after COVID-19, I do believe event organisers will work out ways so that digital features can complement in-person events. I expect a sharp rise in hybrid events where portions of the event will occur in person, and others will happen online.
Popularity and acceptance of online shopping will soar big time. Consumables, such as medicines, groceries, etc. will be purchased mostly through digital commerce. AI and Big Data will play a big role in online selling catering to the choice and requirements of the buyers. 2D and 3D graphics will also change the shopping experience. Holograms will be incorporated to give a realistic view of the product people will be buying. People will prefer contactless methods of delivery too. Drones and robots will be incorporated in the delivery services. Courier companies will deploy more of these machines to do their job. Most brick & mortar shops will also have online channels to complement their businesses as more and more consumers will be preferring not to shop in-person.
Contactless payments will see a new surge in the Post-COVID-19 world. People will prefer not to touch physical money anymore following the bitter experience of contamination. Digital transactions, mobile financial services and touchless biometric solutions will be introduced by banks. Voice commands will eliminate the need of pressing buttons of an ATM. All biometric scanning for authentication will be contactless to save the user from possible contamination.
Besides all the above predictions, is this the end of capitalism? Capitalism that isn't engrained in moral values is untenable. In this current pandemic situation, governments all over the world are planning stimulus packages involving large-scale cash distribution—not very different from what a socialist country would do. It is also ironic that in the ongoing election campaign in the most capitalist country in the world—the US, democratic socialism emerged as an alternative. So, is socialism our future?
The COVID-19 contagion might be challenging on our lifestyle and our work habits, but it is also making us more resilient. As the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention", we shall see new innovative ideas and systems in all aspects of our life. I earnestly hope that the lessons we are learning from combatting the coronavirus will help us create a better world for the future.
Syed Almas Kabir is President, Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS).