The year 2025 or even 2030 is here today. COVID-19 has accelerated into months what was expected to take years — the movement toward digitizing government, businesses, and societies. The introduction and acceptance of new technology, and technology being used in new ways, have accelerated beyond expectations: The Economist calls it “Tech-celeration.”
We held a webinar on the digitization of government, and it highlighted just how quickly change is occurring. The daily Zooms we’re all joining daily (two words that never existed in this context before) are just one microcosm of the revolutionary change that is occurring.
In the past scant 14 years, smartphones have revolutionized the way we work, play, and live. We don’t talk to each other anymore, we text (another word whose meaning has changed).
As McKinsey said: “Recent data show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.” We are moving rapidly into a world that will be dominated by IT and communications, one that COVID-19 has accelerated. It has brought with it vast opportunities. The world’s largest companies are IT-related, yet they didn’t exist 20 years ago. It’s also brought with it considerable problems, cyber security being a principal one (and where I have some experience if you need help). Protecting what we do, and ourselves, from intrusion is becoming an ever-increasing problem, as is the monopoly or oligopoly of various IT systems and products. Only two companies can produce the next generation of chips—Samsung and TSMC of Taiwan.
Almost everything we use today has a chip in it. The simple ON/OFF switch has been consigned to history. As The Economist tells us, we are now moving to where everything will be voice-activated. Stare at the fridge and command “open” and the fridge will open, while a dulcet voice (female, of course) will tell you what foods are running short, and request permission to order from the online supermarket. In the more advanced houses, you won’t even put that delivered milk in the fridge; your maid robot will from the drone that delivered it. Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact. Fortunately, I don’t ever see sex being taken over by the IT world, but just about everything else will be.
Online shopping in America has seen 10 years’ growth in three months. Even here, the growth in online shopping has been dramatic. The expansion of e-commerce platforms has been complemented by the growth of PESONet and InstaPay deals. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, electronic payments coursed through the National Retail Payments System reached P444 billion as of September 2020. Year-on-year transactions increased by more than 160 percent. The central bank expects these figures to continue to grow rapidly over the next few years as people shop from the comforts of their home and e-commerce platforms further expand.
Banks have seen their share of cashless transactions jump to levels they had expected to see in two to five years’ time. The use of checks will soon disappear, and cash will follow. The physical handling of money will be no more. Bank robbers will have to learn to hack, not drive fast cars.
Doctors are switching to remote video consultations (I hope they’re getting cashless payment), and that will improve dramatically as gadgets that can measure your vitals become ever more prevalent, comprehensive, and affordable for personal use.
Students are learning from a tablet. People are working from home (WFH)—successfully. Most of this is permanent change, but there will be some softening once the pandemic is over. Schools will welcome children back, as physical mixing and learning to interact with each other is an essential part of a young mind, and body, integrating into society. But the online component will now remain part of the learning process. Workers will go back to the office for the camaraderie they miss working from home, but it will be a flexible mixture of office and WFH arrangements.
It will be a hybrid future that will mix remote and in-person working and living. There is no going back to the past that existed before COVID-19. We are moving into a very different future.
Tech-celeration, another new word in our changing vocabulary, has been added to explain it all. The virtual revolution began in 2020.
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