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How is our world changing due to COVID-19?

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As we start to move from a crisis state to business as usual, clients, colleagues & friends are talking to me about what I call “Recovery Planning”. How do they start to position themselves, their families & their firms for the “new normal” of the post COVID-19 pandemic lockdown?

Before moving on, I want to thank all of the people that are doing amazing things to support the framework of society in these troubled times.

In my mind, after 4 weeks of lock down, the 7 themes below are showing signs of changing society.

1. Is Society “better off” from the enforced COVID-19 slow down?

If news reports are to be believed, most of us are sleeping more, eating better, exercising more & drinking less, crime rates are also down. The COVID-19 lock down could be good for our physical health; the jury is out on the mental health impact.

Will this “slow down” effect outlive the COVID-19 crisis with people choosing more slow time & a less frantic lifestyle?

2. The Speed of innovation & change has shifted.

If innovation is meeting a real need its speed of adoption can be huge. Just look at the amazing innovation within the NHS & the shift to remote working over recent weeks. I can’t believe consumers; leaders or businesses will let this speed of innovation return to its previous gentler pace. Whilst crisis level innovation is unsustainable, what can be achieved is now clear for all to see.

Will a more sophisticated level of innovation acceptance prevail across society?

3. Less road congestion but more Internet congestion?

Roads - The amount & mode of travel we use has changed, maybe permanently. Why travel 2 hours for a 30-minute meeting, when a video call can suffice? Due to social distancing trains, tubes & cabs may see a decline in passengers.

Cycling (especially e-bikes) could be the new way to travel, supporting social distancing, exercise & environmental credentials.

Online - With increased virtual journeys, remote working & schooling extra pressure will be placed on the UK’s connectivity infrastructure. This could lead to reduced performance (at least at peak times).

In response to this, I could see an acceleration of fibre broadband roll out, as well as a push to get 5G up & running more widely across the UK.

4. Telemedicine - will we ever physically visit our GP again?

It is illogical that an unhealthy person goes to see their healthy GP, sitting in a waiting room with a mix of healthy & unhealthy people then sits in a small room to consult with their GP1:1. With a mix of wearable tech driven data points & secure remote consulting we could improve the patient experience, reduce the risk of cross infection rates, & potentially improve first time diagnosis.

5. Big Data may accelerate post COVID-19 normality, but what about data privacy?

Evidence from Asia shows how contract tracking, big data analysis & self-quarantine can reduce the spread of COVID-19. As we move from lock down to “normal” could mobile phone data tracking be a key feature? I & most people would probably accept this data tracking as part of societal good & freedom from the lock down.

But concerns remain about how the data will be used & whether this could be a slippery slower towards diminished data privacy.

6. Local supply chains win over global chains - 3D printing locally

COVID-19 has shown the global supply chains can have unexpected weak points. I can foresee a time soon when we will no longer import components from around the world. Instead we will buy the CAD design & 3D print the component at home / or at a local community 3D print shop. Saving time, shipping costs & making supply chains more robust. 3D printing is moving from the rapid prototyping space into the mainstream- Move fast & make things.

7. Drones could change the delivery model & remove human interaction.

Moving beyond whether the structural change to our high streets it is a good thing or not let’s look at the delivery model. Do we need people in vans or could we move to a remote autonomous delivery system?

The tech is capable, but society has been reticent until now.

Now the need to deliver with no human contact is accelerating this shift. Todays Guardian newspaper report on “delivery robots” taking food to residents in Milton Keynes without the need for a human driver or delivery person.

In conclusion, we will emerge from the COVID-19 lock down & life will return to “normal”, but as individuals, businesses and society we will have changed. Being on the front foot for this change seems a good thing, now we have a bit more time to consider the options. I may be wide of the mark but I wanted to share my thoughts in case they help others.

Thanks for reading, take care and stay safe.

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