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During the coronavirus pandemic, technological innovation has progressed on an expedited timeline to meet new and emerging challenges, according to industry leaders at a recent virtual event hosted by the Chamber Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC). Here are five ways that technological innovation is accelerating to meet the crisis:
1. The workforce is becoming more digital, flexible, skills-based, and regional
As workers practice social distancing, we’re seeing fundamental changes in how we work, at an unprecedented rate. The challenge for employees and the workforce of the future will be in adapting to a “new normal.” For many Americans, the day-to-day has transitioned from a physical workplace to a virtual one.
The future of the workforce will be a combination of humans, machines, and the gig economy, according to Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys. The pandemic has accelerated the transition to automation, and work will be split into smaller, virtual packets that generate the gig economy.
To prepare workers for the “new normal,” the focus will need to move from degrees to skills, shifting from traditional four-year undergraduate educations to a lifelong form of learning that provides a platform of reskilling.
Moreover, as supply chains suffer disruption from the virus, they will shift to become more regional, focusing on local suppliers and markets. To meet this shift, businesses will have to embrace emerging technologies.
2. Connectivity will be the norm and not the exception
As the workforce shifts to become more digital, connectivity will be foremost in the equation. This has been proven across all facets of daily life. “That broadband connection is quite literally what is driving our daily interactions through our lives,” said Ajit Pai, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
During the crisis, the FCC has seen a sharp increase in network usage – an estimated 20-35% on the fixed side and between 10-25% on wireless. To make sure that Americans can stay connected through increased demands, the FCC put forth the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which asked broadband and telecom providers to 1) not cut off service, 2) not enact late fees, and 3) open WiFi hotspots to any consumer.
And businesses have answered the call. Moreover, many companies have gone above and beyond – increasing speeds at no additional cost, waiving data caps altogether, offering special prices to low-income consumers, and working with schools and hospitals to prioritize their connectivity.
Communities that traditionally have not had as much service have benefited from these policies. Low-income communities, rural areas, and smaller markets have received increased connectivity. As research has shown, unlocking the digital potential for rural small businesses across the country could add $47 billion to the U.S. GDP per year.
3. Data will help secure better health outcomes
As telehealth takes center stage, data will be a major player in securing the best health outcomes for patients and communities. RELX has been using data analytics to repurpose data to assist in the battle against the pandemic in three major ways.
First, detailed and accurate data allows government agencies to do effective contact tracing and flatten the curve. Second, anonymized data analytics have provided a critical tool to determine which communities are most at risk due to underlying health issues and which are most in need of critical healthcare resources. And third, data has allowed health providers to support patients in recovery after coronavirus. This post-recovery care alleviates the cost and capacity burden on hospitals in the case of readmissions and improves the ultimate health outcomes for patients.
4. Autonomous vehicles are hitting the road
Another way that technology is protecting hospital workers and patients is through the use of autonomous vehicles. Recently, autonomous shuttles have been used to transport coronavirus tests and medical supplies at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The technology allowed for another layer of protection and freed up healthcare workers to focus on more important matters than the transportation need. The process typically takes six weeks, with all factors considered. But Beep, an autonomous mobility company, and local government agencies came together to develop a strategy that allowed them to launch the vehicles only six days later.
5. Daily life will rely on the gig economy
Before the pandemic, Instacart was growing steadily, but the coronavirus crisis changed everything. Now, on any given day, more than 1 million new households are trying to shop for groceries online.
"What we saw during the height of the COVID crisis is that what we expected to happen as a business, in a customer adoption perspective, over a 4-to-5 year period, happened over a 4-to-5 week period,” said Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart.
To meet the increased demand, Instacart brought on over 300,000 new personal shoppers, and will bring on an additional 250,000 in the next several weeks.