Another year down and one that will be hard to forget.
Yes, while tech has been a real bacon-saver, an essential business continuity tool and an incredible communications conduit, few would have imagined that it would also be used for a Friday night drink-in with friends or a hug-free catch-up with family members from near and far. Pretty soon, I hope to have a good measure of both the virtual and human versions of both.
Though video calling – and FaceTime – has been slowly creeping into our lives for a decade, this year’s events has ensured its future as an everyday way to do business and to stay in touch. And given that many of us are now spending up to eight hours a day online, if MS Teams and Microsoft 365 was not on your radar this time last year, they must surely be now.
And while the group quiz novelty ran its course relatively quickly, our collective adaption to working from home with only video conferencing connecting us did give us some of the most human, funnier moments of 2020.
Everyone will remember “BBC Dad”, or Professor Robert Kelly as he is actually known, who, in March of 2017, was speaking live from his home office about the ousting of South Korean president Park Geun-hye when all hell broke loose behind him. His daughter, Marion, who was four at the time, burst into his office with a ‘Hear I am!’ strut that has since become internet shorthand for confidently entering a room. Baby brother James rolled in behind her before Kelly’s wife, scrambled to corral the toddlers and hustle them out of the room. Somehow, Kelly kept his composure through the whole scene.
Or remember when Westfield’s managing director Scott Parsons found himself unceremoniously cut off live on air? He was being interviewed from his home about what could happen to his business in the next stages of lockdown being lifted, but disappeared mid-sentence, having apparently run out of free meeting time on Zoom.
No doubt some of us have had our own funny video moments this year, but in a way the combination of tech advancement and the need to work from home has enabled us to show more of ourselves and who we are as people than we might have done in a formal work environment. And in many ways, it has made us more human in the eyes of people outside of our immediate circle of friends or family. Far from being awkward or making work more challenging, it’s our human elements and individual quirks that lighten the mood.
Where we must redouble our efforts as technology continues to change every aspect of our lives is in ensuring it is doing so inclusively. Whether it is co-promoting initiatives such as Get Online Week hosted by Advice NI or the One Digital campaign organised by Age NI, it is vitally important that we ensure that older people and anyone else who faces barriers to participating online is supported to do so.
The need for many non-millennial communities to up their digital prowess due to the pandemic presents an opportunity to push on with supporting the same people with digitalisation across a range of other services, whether its online shopping, banking or the payment of utility bills. The pandemic has created the space to level the playing field when it comes to the benefits of being a digital consumer.
For many of us, we’ll still roll our eyes when we get an invite for yet another Zoom quiz, but the need to connect with others from our homes has given us some wonderful tech bloopers this year and an opportunity to show more of ourselves as people to the outside world in a way which encourages more empathy and understanding.
Despite the challenges this year has posed, perhaps we will all be better off for that.