The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic has revealed certain vulnerabilities to humanity. The first wave of the impact has destabilised the healthcare and the economy across globe. People all across the world are actively delving in rebuilding strategies and solutions in these domains. However, an event still in its nascent stage, digitisation will also be heavily affected by the crisis and the impact will not be from the first wave but from ensuing developments or the subsequent wave. Pre-COVID scenario for digitalisation was marked with a slow but steady progress towards a digital way of life. Both the private and the public (government) sector nudged people towards this. Even if it was not well planned, the pace pushed society to adapt to it. The present scenario forces us towards physical distancing. The virus has offered an exogenous push towards immediate digitisation. This has paved way for higher digital interaction, which is not only restricted to the social media arena but also, has extended its reach into the corporates in the form of ‘work from home’, as businesses adapt to new regulatory standards .
Given the current scenario, this ‘new normal’ seems necessary and unavoidable but driving deep into the situation exposes certain subtle and hideous fault lines. Data privacy being one of the major fault lines requires no introduction. With no definite and rigorous legal framework, the right to privacy can be fundamentally violated. It appears quite extravagant to bother about data protection laws and digitisation trends during times of severe economic and social hardships, but there is no denial of the fact that this is also the emergence of the ‘new world order’. This order graphs the post-pandemic scenario for humankind. Hence, anything entering the new order must reap benefits to humanity. With the world economy driven by the multi-national companies, the availability of personal information at their disposal can lead to chaos of global stature. Even if it is not chaos, elaborate data on human tendencies and behavioural traits can be erroneously manoeuvred by these organisations in manipulating human lives and practices, which is directly against human rights. One example of this would be the intervention in national elections. Even if it is done so in a note of welfare and not destruction, it will undoubtedly lead to extensive human disparity and inequality. A slice of society will be marginalised based on a skewed nudging system. This has occurred in times like the information technology boom or demonetisation in late 2016. The same effect will be observed in businesses. A proportion of the sector will fail to transit into the new digital way of life. As a result, at least in the short run, they will be left behind. To state broadly, the pandemic, through the channel of technology and information will influence the socio-economic and political balance thereby skewing it and manifesting greater marginalisation.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science forecast that there are a few words that have beguiled the current generation. Industry 4.0 is knocking at our doorsteps. It is irrational to think of a world devoid of these. The hypnotic effect of these cutting-edge add-ons in life, no doubt, have increased our capabilities manifold. Big data has taken the shape of a giant in the current market. Nevertheless, we should also not overlook the flip side of it. With time, we’re overlooking and losing the innate essence of human lives. Be it the deaths due to COVID-19, labour migration or customer purchase in a super market, human lives have merely became a data point. It is commonly said, the first death is a life lost, the second onwards is a mere stat. Since stone age, progress and development have outrun every other aspect. A society takes its own course and the bandwagon effect of the society have always emerged as the driving force. However, it is time when we should take a step back and introspect on the future course of society. Obviously, the paradigm technological shift that lay ahead of us is inevitable; however, we should not allow anyone to stay behind due to it. Be it education, employment or the average household, no section of society should be left behind in the new world we are about to enter. If nothing, this pandemic has brutally exposed the vulnerabilities and we should learn from it and design the new normal.
Obviously, it is possible to let the Darwinian process of natural selection to take its course but with this only “the fittest will survive.” Certainly, it is a feasible option to latch on to but the path will be enfolded with human suffering, despair and loss of lives. Hence, as we set foot into the dawn of the new normal, we should keep in mind the subtler facts of human lives and rights and conceive the new way of life ensuring greater balance in every aspect of human life.
- Sarthak Gaurav, “Behavioural Economics in the Fight Against COVID-19: BOMA Framework, March 2020
- Stefana Miladinovich, Is COVID-19 accelerating digitalisation or exposing the digital divide?, June 2020