Lockdown Lifted: Life on the Other Side

The truth is…I’m still a bit scared.

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There’s an air of elation on the island as the government released an update on the lifted lockdown. By the end of this week, most businesses (including restaurants, hotels, and casinos) will be up and running.

By the 1st of June, most public facilities will be open and life will be relatively normal. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, after two months of intense indoor life.

You’d think that I’d be out on the roads right now, marveling at how far we’ve come.

But, to be honest, I’m still struggling to adjust.

Some parts of my mind have not accepted that the lockdown is over. It could be because most of my online peers are in locations where restrictions are still in place, or maybe it’s because I’ve only left the house twice to do my weekly shopping, but I’m still in “Vigilant Mode”.

Some may applaud this attitude of mine because the pandemic is still going on and we “can’t rest yet”. But a  part of me does wonder if my mind is still processing the intensity of what we went through.

I think a lot of us will have those moments of hesitation. We’ll find that our fear will overwhelm our relief and that’s okay.

Because this global pandemic is and was a traumatic experience.

The world came to a standstill with no warning and we were (and still are) processing it all at the same time. We’re all waiting for answers and the eventual end of it. It’s hard to think that while I live in an area with 0 active cases, there are countries with cases that go into the 10,000s.

 

Sometimes, it’s hard to celebrate when you know it’s a completely different story for other communities.

It hasn’t sunk in that the lockdown is over. 

I hear the traffic outside, the sounds of people walking and laughing together, and I see the stories on my social media. Everyone has eagerly embraced post-lockdown life – from beach visits to long walks and trips to the nearest ice cream outlet. 

You can think of this lift as a gift from summer – we actually get to have one. 

My chest definitely feels lighter, knowing that the COVID-19 situation was dealt with effectively. I’m grateful for what the government put in place to protect the country and it feels good to know that I can order food again.

But I can’t ignore the occasional tightness in my chest. The anxiety that flares when I think of my loved ones in other countries.

But, I remind myself to look for the light.

In last week’s post, I said the only way I’ve been able to navigate this pandemic is by putting in boundaries and holding on to hope – even if I don’t know what that hope looks like.

So, I’ll take this situation as a reason not just to be hopeful but to be glad. Two months ago, when the first cases were announced, we had no idea what to expect. I was scared and tried not to think of the worst. The uncertainty of the situation was overwhelming.

But two months later, here we are. Most public facilities will be open by the end of this week. I can see my friends again – with a mask, I know – and I can enjoy long walks to anywhere I choose to go. Public transport will be back soon and I’ll finally get to see my best friend.

 

In a world with so much angst and uncertainty, I think it is important to hold on to the moments of hope. To actively remember them and know that better days will come.

 

Yes, there is the fear of a second wave. Yes, I still worry about my loved ones across the world. Yes, the pandemic is still raging on.

 

But, if I focus on this alone and choose to neglect the slivers of light, how will I ever get to see the sun on my face again?

 

Is this the ‘Digital Era’ we’ve been waiting for? I don’t know.

As the Covid-19 crisis has forced us to find new ways to carry out daily life, is it safe to say digital transformation is here to stay? I’m not sure.

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So, I know Tuesdays are meant to be for COVID-related topics, but I’m going to ride on the tail of yesterday’s post and discuss another aspect of the pandemic that is a part of our daily reality now.

#WorkingFromHome: The dawn of a new reality

The world we live in is not what it was late last year. Most parts of the world are going out less and using their PCs, tablets, and smartphones more. The pandemic has pushed us to rely on digital infrastructure in order to get things done. 

#WorkingFromHome is the new reality for many of us and as long as the pandemic continues to rage on, physical workspaces won’t be the go-to for a while. 

Remote work has been a hot topic for the last decade, but I don’t think we expected the situation to escalate this quickly. This wasn’t a gradual move that was openly embraced. We kind of stumbled into this situation and now we’re trying to make the most of it.

Granted, this is only applicable in situations where companies understand why their employees can’t commute to work. There are organizations that are trying to find loopholes in the restrictions, because who needs their employees to be safe when capitalism must go on?

It is notable to mention that there are a few big companies like Google and Twitter, whose employees are to work from home until further notice.

Is this the transformation we’ve been waiting for?

People have tried to use this present situation as proof that “Digital is the Way”. It’s understandable why this conversation has come about. 

The consumption of in-house media has increased at a notable rate, now that a significant part of the population – with internet access – is spending most of the time at home. From more news to more social media, more streaming, and even more audiobook consumption, it is clear that the digital infrastructure that has been set up in the last decade has allowed us to function the way we are now.

Gatherings that would have taken place in conference rooms, boardrooms, or community halls, are now taking place on video-calling platforms like Zoom, Meet, and soon – Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram “rooms” (I see you, Mr. Zuckerburg).

Bridal showers, baby showers, house parties, weddings, and even funerals have found their place on these platforms as well. Social distancing has stopped us from connecting on-ground, so we’re now forced to create and maintain these connections through the internet. While some may hail this as innovation, the sentimentalist in me can’t help but mourn this grayscale reality.

Some moments were designed for community – physical community – and no amount of pivoting will fill that gap. I know that these contingencies have been put in place because, right now, we don’t have any other choice. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though.

It’s bittersweet, honestly. 

“Yay, we’ve managed to find a way to still hold these meaningful events. But, it still hurts that it has to happen like this.”

I think this is proof that digitization doesn’t need to take over everything, and it’s better to remember that. When this pandemic ends, and we try to find a new “normal”, I hope we get a chance to restore meaningful gatherings. There is power in human connection – even for the introverts.

While we think about what comes after this pandemic, I think it’s also important to evaluate the structures we are currently using. An honest look needs to be given to the digital move because while we may think the world is ready for a total digital economy, I would beg to differ.

So, what is the digital economy?

Digital transformation is a constant we have come to accept. New innovations appear daily and are gradually replacing the former structures we once knew as “normal”. 10 years ago, did you think you would be able to use one app to order food or catch a lift? But here we are.

The global economy is undergoing a digital transformation as well, and it’s happening at an even faster pace. Right now, however, it’s more about survival and less about the bells and whistles that come with innovation.

The term “digital economy” refers to the economic activity that is a result of billions of daily online interactions with consumers, businesses, devices, data, and processes. Another important term you need to know when discussing the digital economy is “hyperconnectivity”.

Hyperconnectivity is at the center of the digital economy and it refers to the evolving interconnected states of people, devices, and organizations. This cannot happen without the Internet, mobile technology that drives it, and, of course, the Internet of Things. Okay, tech talk aside.

The proof is in the threading

Everything we do online, from the $10 transaction on AliExpress to the long-winding rants we leave on Twitter, and even the occasional IG selfie, are threads that have woven the digital economy together. We’re all a part of it and every action we take online adds another piece to the puzzle.

The digital economy is taking shape and redefining “normal” when it comes to business structures, the interaction between firms, and how consumers access services, data, and goods.

This isn’t a sudden thing, however.

Concepts of a digitized future have formed core parts of 90s film plots, sci-fi book theories, and expert predictions. Do you remember when everyone thought computers would explode on the 1st of January 2000? (I just showed my age).

But here we are, alive with computers that talk back to us now.

In the last four to five years, digitization has taken over major industries and has also left some without options for growth – the print industry, for example. Streaming wars is another example of the rapid change in how we consume data. In the early 2000s, you couldn’t imagine anything besides cable. Now? $7 can give you access to thousands of movies, series, and documentaries you once had to wait patiently to see on TV. Once they come up with a solid, Netflix-like platform for sport, I think it’s over for cable. 

We’re already on the brink of redefining financial transactions. Digital currencies are a growing reality and, whether we like it or not, we may see a cashless economy settle in faster than we thought. Again, another byproduct of the pandemic. The discouraging of paper money transactions, and using swipe machines, is pushing online transactions to the forefront. At a time where digitization is the main topic.

Some may argue that this pandemic has brought out necessary advancement, but I think we need to view this very carefully. The transition to digital processes has not been seamless for everyone. There are barriers to entry for multiple groups of people and more light needs to be cast on that.

We have taken big steps in the direction of a totally digital world, but it’s important to ask ourselves, “What do we want this world to look like?”

How far do we want to let technology take over? Where do we draw the line?

There is much more to consider about the digital economy before we can make declarations with our chest. I’ll touch on that more next Wednesday.

For now, there is more thinking to be done.

 

This was the first piece for Wednesday Topics: Digital Media & Tech. Do you have any thoughts to share on the digital economy?

Let me know in the comments.

Covid-19 Continues: Lessons from Lockdown

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to show us that we have no idea what’s going on and we’re all playing a game of guess, hope, and wait.

 

The coronavirus looks different in each location you consider. In some countries, the cases continue to grow while citizens choose to fight the systems put in place. The USA, with 1.3 million cases and a little over 80,000 deaths, is still grappling with protestors and calls for an end to lockdown. Similar calls have been heard in the United Kingdom, which recently surpassed Italy with the highest COVID-19 related deaths in Europe. Germany joined the chaos, not long after the government shared the country’s impressive progress.

People are becoming tired and they want to be let out. Other countries seem to be winding down with more ease – but just as much caution. New Zealand and South Korea are among those at the forefront for reaching the much-awaited “new normal”. But, this is not happening as seamlessly as the world wants it to.

 

From a local perspective, the little island on which I reside managed to get on top of the virus and contain the situation. Our 50+ day lockdown ended on the 4th of MAy and, slowly, life is getting back on track.

 

Lockdown, for me and my city, started on the 10th of March. This was at the time when eyes were on Italy and Iran’s alarming statistics, as well as the rapid spread of the viruses. More cases were being discovered and we’d just realized that this wasn’t a “bad flu”.

 

Months later, I don’t want to think of the future, yet. I’d like to dwell on the last 6 – 8 weeks and share the lessons I picked up along the way:

Continue reading “Covid-19 Continues: Lessons from Lockdown”