A few years ago, my father gifted me “The Road Ahead”- A book packed with Microsoft founder’s predictions. As a teenager, who like most of her peers had only read a few popular books, just for the sake of maintaining her status quo, I found that book as quite highbrow, outdated and boring. Although I was unable to appreciate the book’s worth at that time, but it made me acknowledge Mr Gates exceptional foresight. From Email to video conferencing, online shopping to wallet PCs (mobile phones) and wireless networks to the social networking, almost all the predictions that he made, came out to be true in one way or the other.
Stunned by Mr Gates’ prophecy, I regularly followed the annual letters of the Gates’ foundation. Every prediction that I read in the optimistic philanthropist’s letters amazingly came out to be true in the years to come. This strengthened my belief that Mr Gates though living in present has his brain wandering in the future. The sloth of self-quarantine made me remodel my opinion of both, Mr Gates’ prophecy and the advancing technology, in the wake of challenges that the world is facing.
The world’s claim of development and advancement has been put into question by COVID-19. This pandemic has confronted the world with its unpreparedness, backwardness and failures. The irony is that Mr Gates who is a technological person, hit well with his environmental and public health predictions but his divinity about technology, although laudable, was hit-and-miss. He very idealistically predicted about technological development and its impact on the people but he forgot to mention the dependence of technology on the availability of infrastructure and the influence of people over it. The Small-scale utilization of this advanced technology has proved to be miraculous but unfortunately, in the current situation of lockdown that calls for the global implementation of the technology for health, educational, awareness and professional purposes, these technologies have not proved to be very effective.
We have the technology but we lack both the infrastructure for its effective use as well as the adaptation of our institutions and society to this technological advancement.
Although the online technological tools enabled back-office workers to efficiently work from their homes, the social media shrank the distances during social distancing, the flow of information helped in spreading awareness and the captivating online content kept us engaged; but these technological advancements failed to meet most of the requirements of the prevailing situation. Thousands of people with mechanical, technical and civil jobs could not go for telework, daily-wage earners are jobless for an indefinite period, many students are sitting idly at their homes with virtual classrooms frequently crashing, Patients still have to wait for their turn in already overcrowded OPDs, as no online medical assistance platforms are available, Poor people still have to stand in long queues to avail the relief packages due to conventional registration processes, passengers are still struggling to travel across borders for personal and professional dealings that require face to face interaction. The reason for this chaos is that we have the technology but we lack both the infrastructure for its effective use as well as the adaptation of our institutions and society to this technological advancement.
In 2015, Mr and Mrs Gates prognosticated the online classrooms as the future of education. The rapid digitalization of education with the development of massively organized online courses (MOOCs), online academies, and think tanks indicate that what Gates foundation predicted would become a reality very soon. We would be using these online learning platforms, as frequently and easily as we use social networking applications today. But the lockdown period showed that despite the rapidly advancing online educational platforms, we are still lacking the efficient infrastructure and habituation of our institutions and society to the changing methods associated with developing technologies.
The lockdown period showed that despite the rapidly advancing online educational platforms, we are still lacking the efficient infrastructure and habituation of our institutions and society to the changing methods associated with developing technologies.
We advanced in technology but we never tested it against the requirements of any uncertain situation that could come up. Our society adopted advanced technology very enthusiastically but never adapted to it. We grab the technological gadgets as accessories and not the equipment. That’s why today even the most developed countries could not compensate their daily wage earners, most prestigious educational institutions have no option but to adopt a universal pass system, the most equipped hospitals have no choice but to attend the overwhelming crowd of patients, the most successful companies and organizations have their workers sitting idly at their homes.
In a nutshell, we should take COVID-19 as an opportunity to learn our shortcomings and improve our technological infrastructure for continuity of work and life in a future that is reshaping itself.