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Impact of COVID-19 on Technology and Media

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the technology, media, and telecommunications industries in both positive and negative ways. With a global economic slowdown and sports cancellations, traditional television advertising experienced steep declines in 2020. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated other trends such as digital transformation, OTT video consumption, and even the development of new telehealth applications. As a result, digital adoption has skyrocketed at both the organisational and industry levels.

Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have had a particularly significant impact on businesses that rely on physical spaces to generate revenue, such as theme parks, cinemas, theatres, cruise ships, hotels, and sports venues. Companies that do not have a physical location have also suffered as a result of falling advertising revenues. Expenditure on both digital advertisement and traditional media ad was on the decline. Live sports are on pause, as is the ad revenue that typically accompanies them.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to delays and reduction in the United States presidential campaign spending, which usually drives revenue for all platforms or more modest campaign spending placed pressure on advertising revenue for media companies. Supply chain issues have plagued technology companies, particularly those reliant on China. Nonetheless, technology devices such as phones, tablets, computers, and gaming consoles are in high demand at a time when the majority of people are confined to their homes. More importantly, technological services, software, and platforms are lifelines for the majority of businesses that have had to adapt to remote work quickly.

Online platforms that hire workers on short-term and mostly informal basis drive the gig economy. Uber and Airbnb are two well-known examples, as are Ola and Swiggy in India. These platforms have gained in popularity since the widespread availability of smartphones. During the lockdown, workers employed by these platforms suffered heavily, as the demand for their services, taxi rides, rentals, or skill work disappeared. Further, since these workers h+ad no guaranteed salaries, their incomes dropped dramatically.

The pandemic has brought the world to a point where those who are not connected digitally face total exclusion, thereby widening the digital divide. With strict social and physical distancing measures in place, new routines require accessing the internet for most services and those with no access to information, communication, and technology may suffer from societal inequalities.

Even before the onset of COVID-19, there was already high growth and adoption in education technology, with global EdTech making significant investments in 2019, the overall market for online education is projected to witness higher market value by 2025, driven by the new study methods triggered by the pandemic. Since COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in usage of language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, and online learning software. In response to significant demand, many online learning platforms started offering free access to their services, including platforms like BYJU’S, a Bangalore-based educational technology and online tutoring firm founded in 2011, which is now the world’s most highly valued EdTech company. Since announcing free live classes on its Think and Learn app, BYJU’s has seen a 200% increase in the number of new students using its services.

Companies such as Zoom, Webex, and Microsoft Teams are well positioned to capitalise on the opportunities created by increased remote work and a high reliance on technology to enable it. Zoom, for example, reached 200 million daily users on average in March 2020 as employers shifted to work-from-home models. With back-end dark fibre and spectrum holdings, Verizon, for example, acquired core assets to strengthen its telematics capabilities and its wireless network offering. AT&T bought DirecTV and Time Warner to bolster media creation and distribution, and Comcast bought Sky to bolster international content creation and distribution.

In the healthcare domain, the most prominent technology is the video-based communication platforms, such as Zoom, Facetime, and WhatsApp. Other remote services, such as computer or mobile applications, information and dataset, social media, email, and chest X-ray, could be used to provide synchronous and asynchronous support for both COVID-19 patients and those requiring other routine clinical services. Zoom, WebEx, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts, for example, either became the “teaching and working assistant” to prompt digitally safe and effective conferencing or built bridges to keep social interaction for daily life in this special time. Besides email, online surveys, Google Sheets, and more, telework technologies utilise digital information to exchange virtual services at work. Moreover, social media including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube; systems and applications such as Google Trends, and Geographic Information Systems, helped to track, locate, and analyse outbreaks in daily life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is assisting businesses in understanding economic trends and their competitors and customers as we begin to emerge from the lockdown. During the peak time of COVID-19 pandemic, AI assisted public health officials in predicting infection rates and ICU demand and capacity.  SummarizeBot, a blockchain- and AI-powered bot, condenses all types of information into a concise summary of the key points, keywords, and most important parts of the content. Natural language processing AI is used by Alibaba, the world's largest e-commerce platform, to automatically generate product descriptions.

While many people were forced to work from home during the pandemic, many businesses saw positive results, and even as the world is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, stable wireless networking will be required. The number of devices that need to be wirelessly connected will continue to rise, as will the variety of data streams. The fifth generation of the internet, that is, 5G will transform things and it will be so much faster than 4G. Because of 5G's speed and reliability, more technologies will be adopted by a wider range of organisations and industries. 5G enables the connection required for mobile internet. The services will be able to expand with 5G capabilities, opening the door to new use cases such as entertainment and gaming.

An increase in digitalisation is leading firms and educational institutions to shift to work-from-home (WFH) and in some organisations it is becoming a permanent phenomenon. Blockchain technology will become important, necessitating design and regulatory research. The number of gig workers and the gig economy is expected to grow, raising issues of work allocation, collaboration, motivation, and aspects of work overload and presenteeism. With an increase in digital presence, workplace monitoring and techno stress issues will become more prominent. Online fraud is likely to increase, as will research into security management. The regulation of the internet, a critical resource, will be critical following the pandemic. Cloud, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Blockchain (BC), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) are among the digital transformation technologies being adopted by organisations as part of their transformation efforts.

Yet issues of surveillance and privacy are gaining prominence with digital usage during lockdowns. As many governments started using apps on smartphones to monitor infected persons and trace their contacts, issue of privacy and state surveillance have gained momentum. Following the pandemic, these digital methods of monitoring populations for epidemiological reasons are likely to continue gaining demand and become more popular.


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