What is the outlook for the coming months, for the “after” of the COVID 19 crisis? And how can digitalization help? An article by Dr. Georg Feldmann, Head of City of Vienna Competence Team for the Digitalization of Communication at FHWien der WKW.
The EU has had little success in managing the COVID-19 crisis. The measures taken to contain the pandemic are no longer comprehensible to many. Resentment is rising, the tone is becoming harsher. Society is becoming more fragile, consensus-building increasingly difficult. So what can be done? What is the outlook for the coming months, for the “aftermath” of the crisis? And how can digitalization help? The City of Vienna Competence Team for the Digitalization of Communication at FHWien of WKW has come up with some thoughts on this.
First the bad news
After a year of crisis management, we have finally become a “fatigue society.” There are more and more mentally ill people, and young people are particularly hard hit. Apart from that, our physical health is also threatened. We exercise too little, eat too much, and binge watch for hours on end. A great many people will lose their jobs or their own businesses in the coming months; the entire system is in distress. There is currently no reason to believe that anything will get better in the foreseeable future.
In addition, there are numerous groups who do not want to accept the current conditions and their consequences, who are creating their own reality and ideology: Conspiracy theorists, Corona deniers, test and mask deniers, people who denigrate media as “system media”, largely ignore facts and listen only to a few online sources with dubious reputation. Thus, in addition to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there is also an ideological virus that is equally difficult to deal with.
Now the good news
People become most inventive where the need is greatest. The rapid development of new types of vaccines against COVID-19 is just one example. But we need to start talking, especially TODAY, about how to use the waning days of the pandemic to get things back on track. Here are five topics and suggestions, all of which focus on digital technologies.
It’s not just individuals who need psychological support; entire societies need therapy today, because the tensions have become too great. But the debates to resolve them should not be limited to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or Telegram. Social media are increasingly becoming affect media, digital pillories, with hypercritical tendencies. There are hardly any nuances between upvotes and downvotes anymore. Something has to be done to counteract this!
But what exactly?
The example of the communication strategy around Corona explains this well. It was easy to read critiques around every measure. But it was hardly possible to elicit helpful, target group-related facts. Digital technologies in particular, however, make it possible both to query interests and concerns and to offer specific information adapted to them. A digitally affine young person must be informed and accompanied differently than a “best ager”. Science has focused too much on “incidences” and “reproduction figures”. From the very beginning, it would have been just as important to find out the moods within the most diverse groups on all available online channels and then to deliver tailored content. Digital content can and should inform on a wide variety of channels, but it should also provide guidance, give tips on how to behave, make expert opinions understandable, calm people down, and help prevent conflicts in this way.
Media disputes that divide, there are enough of that. Therefore, in heated times, media presences should be implemented whose basic function aims at EMPATHY. On the one hand, such platforms must list all available, concrete help options for particularly burdened target groups; on the other hand, there should be the possibility to provide ongoing feedback on the biggest problems during the crisis. This is the only way that policymakers and the business community can know where the shoe pinches. The media have a key role to play here. After all, many problems will remain even if the crisis should eventually fade. In this phase, it will be essential for the media to focus strongly on all the opportunities that are open to the economic Corona victims. The topic of digitalization must be at the top of the list.
Politics and digitalization
Without a doubt, we will fail in Austria if we fail to meet the demands of a new, digitally oriented world. In the “IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking”, we are far behind Sweden or Denmark. A continuous learning process for growing digital competencies must therefore be promoted in the private, school and corporate sectors. This means: 5 to 6 hours a week should be invested in digital competence education. Employers and educational institutions must make this possible. Working people, teachers, students and pupils must include this requirement in their genes, only then can we keep up.
For precisely these reasons, the business elite must not be left unscathed by these demands. They share responsibility for ensuring that digital initiatives are implemented. An ambitious learning culture must be created that also question its own mission. Especially in times of crisis, everyone must pitch in and keep an eye on the big picture. For example, Gucci and H&M opened their social media channels to organizations like the WHO at the start of the pandemic. But that can only be a start. Companies must take care to show full commitment to a balanced society if they want to be relevant.
Corona has kicked off a development that is probably unstoppable. We now know that operational coordination can succeed via video stream, phone call and email. The home office has caught on. It won’t be long before the first calls are made to examine this type of work more closely. The video chat tool Sneek, for example, takes photos of participants every five minutes to determine whether everyone is really concentrating. With the Interguard software, it is no problem to create a kind of logbook of employee online behavior. Business and the workforce need to find a basis of trust here so that people are not suddenly being monitored in their own homes. And employees must be supported in having the technical equipment available that is needed for this type of digital work.
If all those points addressed here are prepared to lend a hand, then, but only then, there will be a prosperous future, a good “after”, even after Corona.
The article in abbreviated form has now been published on medianet.at:
About the Author:
Dr. Georg Feldmann is Head of Competence Team City of Vienna Competence Team for the Digitalization of Communication at FHWien of WKW. He conducts intensive research on digitalization trends and their effects and, together with his team, supports lectures in terms of content and didactics with inputs for innovative distance learning settings. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact him: email@example.com.