The importance of technological lifelines during Covid-19

Strangely and sadly, the globe appears united for the first time in a while. It seems like yesterday we couldn’t agree on tactics to battle global warming, or even, in some cases (@ Trump), whether there was global warming. We didn’t know which pacts to join to fight emissions, which industries to tax to prevent emissions, which parties to vote for to plead our case about emissions. The UK, specifically, stood confused, its vision clouded by its outspoken vote to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, unsure of which lands, economies and industries to plant its new and unsteady feet in. Now, millions of us have experienced the beginning, the middle and, for some, the end of a global pandemic. 

A diverse range of subjects in newspaper headlines feels world’s away as we seal ourselves off from the outside and open our screens up as windows and portals to friendship, news, sport, art, education and work. Our youthful proficiency with technology has been a lifeline for many of us, even leading some of us to ask bigger questions like why should we continue to have workplaces if we can all work from home? We’re amazed by our ability to adapt with the help of our smartphones and laptops, amazed at how it took some time to settle in but, by and large, there’s always an app to reach out to someone on or a tailored feed to entertain us, anger us, please us - either way, stimulate us. 

This technology preserves the threads of the communities and friendship groups we’ve stitched for ourselves over the past months and years and it’s a relief that a sense of social life can still be preserved. However, for many elderly and, in the current climate, vulnerable, people in the population this is not possible. In 2017, one in ten households in Britain did not have access to the internet, with nearly three in ten people aged 65 or over saying they had never used a computer. Whilst these statistics are from almost three years ago, it goes without saying that a larger segment of British society still lacks access to the internet or, more likely, the skills necessary to access the internet in 2020. Last year, 7.5% of adults had never used the internet, which might seem like a small statistic, but is likely to be concentrated in older members of the community. (See The Office of National Statistics). 

It’s really important that those proficient with the digital world help those lacking technological skills in the community. Right now, technology, whether we like it or not, is our only means of contact with friends, family members and colleagues. Whilst this is obvious and undaunting to so many of us, it is a terrifying and isolating experience to so many in our communities, so it’s vital we reach out and help people set up their phones and computers. Whilst isolation now stops us knocking on the doors of our neighbours, it can also be as easy to pick up the phone and help talk people through each stage step by step. Print out instructions on how to download WhatsApp or use Facetime and send the letter round your local community with screenshots and possible answers to possible problems they may encounter. It may seem stupidly easy to us, but it’s creating a lifeline for so many.