Pandemic = tech opportunities

‘It’s not what happens to us that affects us but how we look at those things”

Naturally, for many of us the global pandemic has brought pain and misery to many – both physically and mentally.

For the tech industry, the pandemic has brought opportunities for innovation and good business.

Ben Wood, Chief of Research at CCS Insight – explained some of the new solutions appearing at the CES Tech Expo – for the first time being held virtually 11-14 January 2021

Ben explained some of the ideas presented at the expo are a direct result of the pandemic. These include specially coated tech protected from picking up the virus, a desk light which cleans keyboards etc every hour, face masks with integrated purifiers.

Robotics have been around for over 50 years. We’re used to seeing these in car manufacturing plants. Recently we’ve seen food delivery companies use robots to deliver food in smaller areas. Robots are used in corporate setting to direct visitors, used for contactless service and payment. Future plans include use in the care sector for administering drugs but also to stave of the killer of loneliness.

Innovation and opportunity often springs up from adversity. Let’s not be scared of that adversity but grab it for the opportunities it presents.

Remember – ‘It’s not what happens to us that affects us but how we look at those things”

An unpalatable truth?

We all love a bargain. We know when we buy something cheaply from the ‘back of a van’ its origins are unknown. We know from Trading Standards that some products sold in this way can be counterfeit containing ingredients that can harm us – think perfumes etc. Toys brought in this fashion can be dangerous with small parts that can choke.

We know the risks of buying from these sources.

However, there have been regular exposes over the years of abuses including in the recent past sweatshops making designer clothing. The end product was at the designer’s price so the consumer would not be expected to know the person who made the dress could be working in unsafe conditions on minimum wages, which they were.

It’s long been unspoken concern that products made in some countries use forced labour – to me the same as slaves. Do we question where our iPhones or other tech is made, what those on the production lines are paid, what conditions they live and work in?

Today, the BBC spoke to their Asia Business Manager Marika Oi who explained the Daily Telegraph broadsheet had written a piece of concern about China using ‘forced labour’ i.e. detained muslims in their cotton production exported worldwide including to the UK. Dominic Raab, is making a statement in the House of Commons today urging companies to check their supply chain to ensure we do not receive these goods in the west.

We cannot do anything about historic slavery, but should we now be questioning where the goods we buy are made and who by? It doesn’t feel acceptable anymore to feel we paid a huge sum of money for this product, therefore it could not have been by anyone other than someone living and working in good conditions earning a good rate of pay.

Profits are seen as an indicator of a successful business. Should a positive socially acceptable reputation be a better one?

Profiteering or good business?

That’s a question I asked myself this morning listening to a news item about the provision of meals to children who would normally have free school meals to have food sent to their homes during this pandemic.

Is ignorance a good enough defence? I am sure I’m not alone in not questioning how this provision worked. Listening to Zane Powers Assistant Head Teacher at a school in Grimsby, I was frankly shocked at the profiteering during a pandemic at the cost of children’s wellbeing.

Zane has been all over social media throughout the pandemic. He and his team brought and delivered food and tech to their vulnerable pupils at their home. This enabled them to check how they were doings if their parents were ok and support them with homework etc socially distanced at the gate. Of course, this came out of the school funds so getting the package from Central Government sounded like a good solution. Schools could decide if they wanted packed lunches or vouchers for their children.

Sounds a good choice? Mmm not as Zane went on to explain. Vouchers means parents have to go out and get the food which defeats the ‘stay at home’ advice. It also prevents teachers checking their pupils and families are really ok. The packed lunches were provided in bulk items being delivered to the school who then had to make the packs up and deliver them. However Zane said the contents for each child was pretty poor with little choice: either a cheese or ham bun, small packet of raisins, one piece of fruit and possibly a cookie. The cost of this was double that of a hot school meal! Zane said for the quality and content, he could do better. Zane’s lucky – his local Sainsbury gave him £150 to help so they added variety to the packs before delivering them.

Of course private companies have to cover their costs and make a profit but is there a fine line between making an honest profit and delivering an inadequate product for a massive profit? especially in these times.

Children are the future. If they aren’t nourished they won’t realise their full potential and contribute positively to society. Is that acceptable?

How would you feel if you had to eat the same packed lunch every day?

Doesn’t this look better? How much more would it cost? How much better would it taste?

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