The Pandemic and other Disruptions
Updated: May 19, 2020
There has clearly been disruption to the momentum of pre-March 2020 business,
as Western countries have been forced to lock-down their populations to varying degrees to stop contagion, throwing their economies into a tailspin.
Until the Covid-19 lock-down, we celebrated the term ‘disruptive’ as the positive impact of driving innovation through decidedly new technologies that replace old ones with uncharted methods, significantly greater efficiencies, lower cost, etc.
In fact, the positive connotation of ‘disruptive’ first appeared in a Harvard Business Review article in 1995, and has become the emboldened and excitingly-belligerent adjective we love to use to distinguish state-of-the-art technologies.
A disruptive solution shamelessly rethinks the problem and its solution, proudly forcing a radical, enhancing change – not a simply an evolution.
“Disruption” Reverts to its Darker Meaning under Covid-19
In stark contrast, the ‘disruption’ of late is clearly an annoying interference with our lives that is challenging and somewhat frightening – personally and professionally, on economic, social and political levels, among others.
The near closure of the global economy has found many households and businesses without financial reserves, unable to fulfill obligations and to meet important goals. It is like pulling a Monopoly card that says Go to Jail. Do not pass Go and Do not collect $200. Yes, a set-back for certain; but is the game over? Hopefully not!
Embracing Disruption is a Silver Lining of this Health Crisis
The world is striving to resume business, taking precautions where possible and praying for good luck, where precautions fail. And yet, many very positive things are developing as a result of this crisis. Clever minds have taken some of the most exciting emerging technologies to new heights to help manage the global pandemic.
Here are examples:
Robotics – Robots have been used in hospitals to assist medical staff carry out remote assessment and monitoring while caring for Covid-19 patients, reducing their risk of contracting the virus. Robots are used to disinfect operating rooms using UV light. Forbes Magazine reported at the end of April, “Brain Corp., a SoftBank-backed firm that makes autonomous systems for cleaning robots, raised $36 million today for further expansion in retail, healthcare, airports, schools and others on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.” And logistics robotics is managing the increase on online shopping fulfillment.
Drones – Police and Military Forces worldwide, charged with enforcing lock-downs to reduce the spread of the pandemic, are employing drones to cost-effectively monitor and break-up public gatherings that violate public health guidelines, and to communicate with the public remotely. Drones deliver groceries, medications and packages, provide lighting in field hospitals, and may even be used to spray disinfectants!
Artificial Intelligence – Governments and Health Care Officials have been using AI to predict the behavior of the virus under diverse circumstances, as well as the best and worst-case scenarios for the public, the costs to society, households, institutions, etc. AI has been used to identify individuals who have been in the vicinity of someone diagnosed with the Covid-19 to help prevent further spread. Health care management benefits from this technology and its projections. AI, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Machine Learning are all applied in various combinations both to manage the pandemic, as well as to assist in the development of drugs and vaccines.
Financial Technologies – There has been a significant improvement in the variety of online payments during these two months, ensuring the ability to shop online, pay bills and taxes and transfer funds between institutions and individuals. Access to government support and bank loans to various market segments have been facilitated by rapidly developed online products, enabling parts of the economy to stay afloat. In its article on the impact of the pandemic on start-ups, FinTechMagazine.com observed “The crisis has already proven that digital financial services are the future and are more necessary than ever in an increasingly digitised world.”
Telehealth – Health Care systems around the world have deployed systems for virtual doctor visits, remote diagnostics, and other telecommunication systems that reduce the number of people visiting public health facilities. Although overwhelmed by public needs, operators and health care specialists have been able to evaluate situations and provide direction much more quickly and professionally, without risking further infection.
3D Printing – The pandemic certainly gave 3D Printing a boost, providing a new source for ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment – namely full-face protection – by basically anyone who has a printer! Theconversation.com reported, “Designers, engineers, students, manufacturers, doctors and charities have used 3D printing to produce a variety of products including face shields, masks, ventilator components, hands-free door openers and nasal swabs.” The sharing of designs online helped people worldwide overcome problems of shortages, sourcing and logistics.
Remote Communication / Distance Learning– As a result of the lock-down, many of us learned to manage communication technologies to engage in social interaction, educate our children, learn new skills while on leave from work, worship and celebrate holidays, participate in lifecycle events, pursue academic studies and work from home. This has been a remarkable exercise in maintaining some semblance of normalcy under lock-down!
Although fear for our health and financial security is a normal response, we are fortunate to live in this era, when a global pandemic may also be regarded as the instigator of truly disruptive innovations.