Telenor heralds the ‘society-as-a-service’ age: dystopian nightmare or IT mission accomplished?
- If your first impulse on reading that headline was to run screaming you’re probably not alone.
- Society-as-a-service sounds a tad Orwellian, to say the least of it.
- But Telenor’s report on the impact of the pandemic makes some good points. The technology may save us
Essentially Telenor’s research contends that the pandemic may have been challenging (it’s not over yet, of course), but that it’s also been transformative. Covid-19 has forced the global population to urgently adapt to a new way of life. A life lived much more digitally.
“The past year has proved that digitalisation will be key to tackling major societal issues and to facilitate new ways of working and living in 2021,” says Bjørn Taale Sandberg, Head of Telenor Research.
A whole range of new concerns and measures to tackle them have been implemented via technology (cloud applications and the networks to breath life into them), and that means that the so-called “journey to the cloud” has become a non-issue. What matters now is how quickly and efficiently we can adopt cloud services, not just to be ready for the next lockdown and work from home episode, but to provide economic booster rockets to power the global economy back into life. The ‘debate’ is over.
But it’s not just a case of getting the industrial wheels back into motion. The researchers point out that the technology must be used to counter the host of new health concerns brought on by the pandemic.
“2020 showed us that loneliness is a fundamental public health issue; a health issue that we believe will face an unprecedented technological response in 2021. We predict that eHealth actors will develop and roll out new sets of tools and services related to mental health. In countries with full 5G implementation, we will likely see the first uses of augmented and virtual reality technology applied in holographic communication tools, already within the next year,” adds Sandberg.
Then there’s sustainability. “We believe governments will use the momentum of 2020 to pave the way for a green recovery in 2021, putting climate laws and climate plans into action,” says Sandberg.
The researchers point out that the nature of work is also up for review. "In 2021, we expect many companies to provide employees with more flexibility to carry out their work outside the office walls. To ensure the necessary competence for the future way of work, managers will increase the upskilling of employees in cyber security, digital hygiene, and the use of digital tools and technologies," explains Sandberg.
But the big one - perhaps the pandemic’s most consequential impact - is the spotlight it has shone on education and its role in holding everything together... or not.
Educating from home has been greatly hampered through 2020 by uneven access to educational materials. When these are in book form it’s simply harder to organise distribution when the class is working from home. So education now looks as though it will become what, in the world of office work, we’re already beginning to call hybrid - that is, half office half home. So we need networks and equipment to make that work for us.
As a result, learning from home has arguably overtaken working from home as the area of most concern as the pandemic has played out.
Initially the response to the general realisation that children’s education was suffering from both the fact-stuffing and socialisation points of view, was simply to urge that schools should open again as soon as possible. This was supported by the view that young children seemed fairly impervious to COVID and even if they caught it, they seemed to shrug it off. Now it’s become clear that children DO catch and spread Covid, so the narrative is now dominated by how to cope with home schooling which is exacerbated by the persistent digital gaps - rich v. poor; urban v. rural
Telenor says: “While the Covid-19 lockdowns have led to a wave of innovations and important progress in digital learning, it has done less to reduce the global education gap. “In 2021, we expect to see an escalating number of new and creative methods of remote, digital learning to emerge from the rapidly advancing virtual learning sphere. Those equipped with network access and internet-capable devices will be able to take part in this digital leap and reap the rewards. The unconnected will, however, lose ground.”
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