Elisa Lombardi

During this challenging time, we have had the indisputable proof of how technology has become indispensable in today’s life. Technology, in all its different forms, is supporting all of us in going through this crisis. From smart working to facetime with family and friends, from fund-raising initiatives launched on social networks to information sharing, technology is suddenly at the forefront of our lives, silently but effectively facilitating us in doing at least some of what used to be our routine activities. There are of course always concerns regarding the risks connected to privacy, but I would rather focus the attention of this article on all the good that can come when technology is properly used, as the current emergency is clearly testifying. Obviously, nothing can replace physical human interactions, but, for sure, technology is helping us to feel less lonely, more active and less distant. 

This does not mean that it has been an easy transition for everybody. While certain categories of the population might have been already used to interact and work digitally, others have found this shift more challenging. Focusing on the bright side, technology has been able to include people who were excluded before the crisis, by supporting them in making the first steps towards digital interaction. I am thinking of the many cases of grandparents, unable to visit their family, who put a lot of efforts into learning how to make a video call. I am thinking of all those categories of workers, who used to have a paper and contact-based job, and now, due to force majeure, have learned how to perform their tasks in a technological, and sometimes even more efficient way. I am thinking of all those people who never set foot in a gym, and now are following online yoga classes with apps specifically designed for that purpose. I am thinking of how social networks have united entire nations in expressing their gratitude for the medical forces with coordinated chants from the balconies. I am thinking of online crowdfunding and digital solidarity which supported the construction of temporary hospitals and the purchase of medical machinery. I am thinking of the video lessons that professors have been delivering not to stop education. All this incredible human effort would have not been possible without the technological support we have built over the years.

Nonetheless, compared to Asia, in Europe, there is still a feeling of reticence towards technology, with digital devices often perceived as an instrument of alienation, particularly from a more mature population group. All the potentials and opportunities discussed are not related to a hypothetical technology of the future but to existing technologies, accessible at low costs or even for free. The limit to their adoption is often only cultural. Perhaps the coronavirus will ultimately push all of us to embrace the digital revolution without perceiving it as threatening anymore? I want to be an optimist, and I believe that almost everybody will find in her heart to have learned something from this terrible experience. The hope is that, as we will appreciate much more the every-day life when all of this will be over, I also confide that we will not forget the primary role that technology has played in facilitating our lives in this unusual context, and how this help could also be used in normal circumstances to allow us to improve and evolve.