10 Ways COVID-19 Is Changing The World

10 Ways COVID-19 Is Changing The World

There’s no denying it – even if we finally get this pandemic under control, the world is forever changed. Indeed, in the wake of this international tragedy it certainly is probable that we will return to the lives and jobs we had before, the economy should make a slow recovery, most people will recover from the virus.

But the world as we know it has changed, and is changing still. Rand Rescue takes a look at the most fundamental ways in which our lives have been affected in 2020.

Goodbye offices!

One of the most noteworthy changes COVID-19 has made in society is the way we work. While essential services still function and the manufacturing and production industries are carrying on, for many companies the pandemic has indicated just how redundant offices can be. 

Indeed, jumping into a remote-working setup has not been easy for everyone – we need equipment, technology and connectivity to succeed – but it’s abundantly clear that such a setup is not only possible, but can be a great cost-saving exercise.

The rent and upkeep of office spaces can be quite exorbitant, and cutting this cost will certainly allow companies to funnel certain funds towards tools necessary for satellite offices. One may even expect VR presentations and conceptualisation, who knows.

But the sudden uptake of new technologies is not without its risk. The Zoom.us platform has seen a 535% increase in traffic and many experts fear that this boom will see the introduction of malware and spyware as so many individuals worldwide use the platform for digital conferences.

As most companies craft careful guidelines to monitor and instruct staff on using third party applications, code of conduct as well as security and storage measures for data and so forth, it’s unlikely that such policies will have been made available to cater for the entire staff complement and there are bound to be some snags.

But there are also a myriad of project management and team collaboration apps which can help companies out. While most of these offer some free version of the software, it can be frustrating when the premium pricing doesn’t cater to your needs or aren’t customisable. Some of these  platforms include:

  • Chase
  • Google Suite
  • Jira
  • Slack
  • Asana
  • Wrike
  • Trello
  • Wimi
  • Redbooth
  • Quip

We’ll discuss online collaboration and satellite office hacks and tools in more detail in our next blog

Rethinking healthcare

In South Africa, the Health Professionals Council has given the go-ahead for doctors and mental health care professionals to take their services online and consult with clients remotely. HPCSA regulations aside, this is something many doctors have also been opposed to before Covid-19.

In fact, medical practitioners are some of the least represented professionals in the online sphere today. One struggled to find websites, contact details and access to your doctor without the necessary middle-man (receptionists) and a face-to-face consultation. Hopefully this new consultation process will remain accessible after the pandemic – allowing more people remote care.

Other ways in which the health sector is changing relates to policy and manufacturing.

There’d been widespread uproar over changes to health provision in countries like the USA and UK in the past few years. The pandemic has cast a spotlight on the necessity for healthcare funding and the accessibility of care, and this may spark a renewed debate on governments’ approach to healthcare.

Policy change may also be adapted to reconsider the age of retirement and auxiliary services of retirees in the sector. Many countries have already made concession to allow retirees to re-enter the field temporarily due to short-term skills shortages. On the one hand, making concessions for retirement age may have a negative impact in that older people in need of money will be compelled to continue working, but on the other hand it may open a conversation around ways to retain the services and skills of pensioners to an extent without burdening them with tasks they can no longer perform.

It is a particularly tricky topic in the developing world where there is both a push for older people to exit workplaces to make space for young blood and conversely some older people are taking care of extended families and cannot quite manage the financial burden without additional sources of income.

With regards to manufacturing, the virus has also demonstrated to us how industries can cross-pollinate to find solutions to pressing issues. From perfumeries and breweries making sanitiser to car manufacturing plants and 3D printers collaborating to make ventilators and other medical supplies and apparatus – we’ll likely see more of this collaboration in future. Several freelance crafters guilds have already pitched in their services to make safety masks for medical personnel and the public.

The R1 billion donation from the Motsepe Foundation in collaboration with several other companies like Sanlam, ARC and AMC has perhaps also opened up the door for expedited philanthropic initiatives in poor communities. Where most donations from other benefactors have focused on stocking hospitals and mitigating financial losses, a big chunk of the funding will go towards providing health and sanitation hubs, clean water and drilling boreholes in impoverished areas to improve health conditions.

The future of entertainment

The pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works for the entertainment industry as well. Fans across the world have been rather peeved at all the cancellations. No more concerts, live studio audiences, festivals or movie premieres.

We’ve seen many online platforms and stars themselves take to home-recording and streaming of performances, but it’s patently clear that we need to rethink how material is captured and distributed in the first place. There is also increased competition between content creators in the online sphere as anyone from novice comedians to fine artists, musicians, actors, dancers, hairdressers and chefs who have previously functioned offline enter the fray to produce their content online.

Production at numerous film studios have come to a halt, which means that we’ll have to make do with less of our favourite shows and films. But there is also opportunity here. It is likely that production houses will incorporate more CGI editing and novel recording and finishing skills and software. In South Africa and other places in the world, photographers, media houses and drone pilots are collaborating to bring people a view of their countries.

Though drones have already been widely used in cinematography, it is likely that countries will need to rethink regulation of drones and offer enhanced access and licensing to assist the entertainment industry. We may even see a renewed interest in virtual reality entertainment in the near future.

One thing is for sure, the traditional way of filming and selling entertainment content will need to be rethinked.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Before the coronavirus outbreak, scientists and environmentalists had been telling the world for years that we need to reduce our consumption and implement practises to limit our environmental impact. But it seems it takes a global catastrophe for humans to take this message to heart.

Amid lockdown implemented around the world, humans have come to realise that we simply need to reduce, reuse and recycle (or upcycle). All of a sudden, the internet is flooded with upcycling crafts for kids, recipes for using leftovers, making functional items with whatever we can find at home. In places like South Africa where most consumables and tools don’t fall into the list of essentials we’re allowed to purchase, we’ve no option but to change the way we use and repurpose.

Though much of the world may return to their pre-corona consumption and habits, it is also likely that many people will maintain this reduction and conscious lifestyles once the dust has settled.

Diversifying our careers

This virus has seen individuals across the board suffer financial knocks and feel the pinch in their purses. While many people are still trying to figure out how they will pick up the tatters of their careers, others have used the pandemic as a catalyst for diversification.

Whether making masks, selling vegetables, distributing steriliser, selling online content or tutoring skills online – the world is finding innovative solutions to supplement incomes and reinvent industries.

We are bound to see not only diversification of resumes, but new jobs emerge as new needs and novel solutions are identified in this crisis.

The reality is that this small-scale innovation cannot salvage the economic drain and plummet into poverty which we are witnessing worldwide. Many people will suffer, lose their jobs or take income cuts. But this mindset of innovation provides stepping stones to greater change in society and underscores the resilient nature of mankind, and whether by small-scale social mobilisation, philanthropic intervention or someone seeing a gap in the market – we can look forward to new career paths and positions. To add to this – the remote working conditions filtering through the world will also make it easier for people to enter positions around the globe from the comfort of their homes.

Globalised education at a click

The global pandemic has caused massive disruptions in the educational sector. Whether local schools or multinational educational institutions, a sudden halt to teaching will have knock-on effects for years to come. In South Africa, a 21-day lockdown means catchup can still be done within the same year, but for countries most hard hit by the pandemic, the possibility of catching up in 2020 will be an impossible task.

Countries have already maintained different ‘school years’. Some countries, like South Africa, utilise a calendar year for school grading. Other schools run from September to June, April to March or for other fixed terms. Many schools have now been closed for weeks (or months) and this trend is likely to continue. This will require a complete overhaul of academic policies and curricula and also require educational institutions and governance to move over to a digital sphere if they’re to continue instruction.

But this poses certain concerns. Firstly, it is unlikely that all schools will be able to provide a platform for recording and streaming of content. This means that students and teachers may have to connect with students via their home network and cameras and use 3rd party video-chat or recording applications. Online schooling and the conduct and security protocols thereof are not things which are traditionally taught in teaching degrees, nor are there Governmental standards and procedures for such circumstances. Consequently the Department of Education will have to gamble – can they usher a new era of learning without having researched, built platforms or put down a policy framework for such a setup.

Many tertiary institutions are better equipped to cater for this problem given that they already have online student chat rooms and social media forums. As these students are also not minors, there is less risk for the tutors and students involved. The hope is that the world’s universities which had previously limited their offering to full time studies on campuses will continue to offer novel teaching opportunities after the crisis is over. 

The year of hobbies

Worldwide, people are realising that Netflix and chilling, cleaning house and cooking dinner are not sufficient in keeping minds occupied and boredom at bay. Books are dusted off, drills are used for the first time in years, people are drawing, doing yoga, knitting and playing darts.

Though the uptake of hobbies may be a side-effect of isolation, it may also be its best medication. And as people get accustomed to new hobbies or rekindle their love of old the upshot is that the mental health benefits of these pastimes will have lasting benefits and encourage millions of people to live more balanced lives when all is said and done.

Companies have also capitalised on the current situation by offering novel ways for people to share their hobbies. Gaming applications which were formerly single-person games are suddenly offering collaborative and multi-player experiences. Singers and songwriters are using conferencing software to make music together. Chefs, fitness instructors, makeup artists and fine artists have taken to social media to teach and tutor.

Hobbies are also put to good use to fight social-economic hardship and pandemic-related crises. Old ladies are knitting blankets for those in temporary shelters, people are cooking meals for those less fortunate, amateur inventors are using their free time to conceptualise anything from cardboard shelters to sanitation and nutritional solutions.

A ray of hope in this darkness is truly the spirit of humanity which perseveres, demonstrates empathy and selflessness and shows us that no matter how this turns out – humankind can create and contribute towards a better world.

Hello online shopping!

Many of us have already used online shopping and sourcing long before the hint of any virus. But just as many people have been resistant to online shopping for various reasons; whether due to security concerns, lack of technical skill or the psychological draw of seeing and viewing products in person.

As with reducing consumption, the push towards online shopping platforms is not necessarily one which people have taken up willingly and without resistance. But they have taken it up nonetheless. This sudden skyrocketing in the need for online shopping and delivery services has placed quite a strain on producers, distributors and logistics companies – but it has also highlighted the need for user-friendly applications and seamless online shopping experiences. Suppliers and supply chains with existing online platforms will amend their content and functionality to become increasingly intuitive, while those who’d previously sold offline will now enter the online space. 

Amazon was already known for drone deliveries – a novel approach to a complex logistical problem – and perhaps this is also a consideration for governments and suppliers who will have to consider that this pandemic will not be our last.

Green fingers

Along with upcycling, the world has returned en masse to our roots – quite literally. As social distancing became the norm before lockdown regulations were implemented, plant nursery and agricultural suppliers recorded massive increases in purchases from small businesses and individuals who hoped to grow their own greens and vegetables at home.

Across social media platforms ordinary individuals are sharing ideas for planting foodstuffs inside homes and small gardens.

It is a remarkable universal change to coincide with an increase in technological uptake. As people are going digital, they are also becoming more self-sufficient. As supply chains and grocers are overburdened with calls to deliver food, micro businesses and sole proprietors have taken on the backlog and are now getting a market share where they’d once struggled to find clients. It is a strange dichotomy this pandemic presents – we are at once expediting digital and technological advancement while simultaneously finding ways to conserve and return to a more primitive state. 

Though many people are bound to discard this once the world returns to normal, we’ll undoubtedly see as many people continue to grow, supply to their neighbourhoods and assist other homegrowers. 

Money matters

We can’t quite elaborate on the economic ‘progress’ or outcomes of COVID-19 yet, so we’ll leave that analysis for another time and focus on the changes we are witnessing.

2020 is certainly highlighting the pitfalls and opportunities in the financial services industry. Africa has never been a stranger to the hazards of financial transacting, so initiatives like M-pesa which facilitate cellular banking and cash transfers are nothing new.

This move towards easier, faster and more accessible financial transacting has been expedited worldwide, as many banks and service providers dealing with the unbanked or offline entities have been pushed to drastically overhaul their service delivery strategies. Banks have also seen fit to lower transaction fees for online banking and offering zero-rated data for accessing banking applications. Retail accounts are making drastic changes to their online media platforms and phone applications – easing the transacting and payment processes for their clients. The pandemic has truly kicked companies into gear and forced them to think out the box.

The USA has indicated that it is considering a virtual currency. We’ve covered virtual currencies before, and though it is not exactly a new thing, it is certainly something which will be more popular worldwide if the biggest economy takes up such currency. We are reminded of past failures in other nations – virtual currency is, after all, simply a digital version of a fiat currency.

It does not function as a cryptocurrency, is bound to the country’s actual wealth and regulations, open to novel security breaches and corruption and the digital currency will need to offer benefits not yet provided by existing financial applications or cash transactions. If one’s bank therefore already offers zero-rated transacting and sending of cash for withdrawal elsewhere and the public has little trust in governance, it is bound to be a hard sell.

Strangely though, another faction of people are returning to a more simple form of transacting – bartering. With households across the world in financial peril, bartering groups are popping up all over the internet. People with holiday homes have offered their accommodation for free to those who can paint walls, fix gutters, lay tiles (once lockdown ends) and so forth. Others are trading instruments for dog food, artworks for books or guitar lessons for school fees.

Plants, tools and equipment are exchanged between those who may not have cash, but have other things to offer. Regardless of governmental efforts to stabilise economies under the weight of a pandemic, it’s reassuring to see humans collaborate in finding ‘novel’ ways to get by.

Rand Rescue, of course has always offered remote services to clients to facilitate their cross border finances, but we’re excited to see the rest of the world following suit and making life easier for their clients. With so many saffas stuck in countries abroad, the issue of cross border transfers and forex has certainly also become one of vital importance to those who have previously not utilised such services.

Beware the trap of laxity

Truth be told, as expats we’d already received some shocks in Mboweni’s budget speech – hearing that South Africa is ready to ease cross-border transacting. We’d heard of a multitude of progressive moves which has made us reconsider how we transact, work and what we do with our money.

But there are matters of concern. Financial surveillance has already received much attention from governments worldwide, and with countries relaxing privacy regulation under the pandemic, one should consider the multiple ways in which governments are aggregating, processing and using our personal information.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Catching criminals who resort to money laundering and other nefarious activities should make life easier for all of us. But while governments may have valid reasons for relaxing regulations, one should be wary of the companies you entrust your personal information to in these times. Most people tend not to read the small print, much less read the updated small print which may be published under the instruction of government, but be left unaltered under this same guise. 

We’ve fast-tracked so much in the past few weeks that it is inevitable – mistakes will be made, privacies will be breached and opportunists will swoop in to exploit loopholes or vulnerabilities. Already we’ve seen fake sites parading as Netflix, CNN, Standard Bank, the South African Government and so forth – asking people to subscribe, log in, download content or simply read the fake news they’re disseminating.

Getaway Magazine fell into the trap of sharing fake news about dolphins in Italy, News24 blundered into fake reporting – claiming that Bill Gates wants to tests COVID-19 vaccines on Africans and Afriforum had the entire country in a flatspin with their claims that the SMME funding offered by government required 50% black ownership of companies.

A study conducted by Poplitifact found that 60% of statements made on/by the news network Fox News was either partially or entirely false. Add to this the entry of misinformation bots, and it’s clear that the viral pandemic of fake news is proliferating just as fast as the actual pandemic.

So though we welcome the new industrial revolution and technological uptake in society, we also want to ask our readers to be careful, to read their policies and conditions and understand the implications thereof, and to only use trusted sources service providers during these times.

Once more, we encourage each and all to contact Rand Rescue to discuss your concerns, options and the way forward for your financial situation.

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