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Digital Interactions are Breathing Life Back into our Society

Emmanuel Christi Das | Wednesday, 13 May, 2020
Emmanuel Christi DasEditor, CIO Insider

Search Engine giant, Google has released a report called ‘What is India Searching for?’ The report encompasses the changing digital behaviours and top five consumer trends : ‘The need to be Always on’, ‘Power to know more’, ‘Tap and Transact’, ‘Anything, anytime, anywhere on-demand’ and ‘Optimise, personalise, humanise’.

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, India is digitising faster than any other country in the study, save Indonesia—and there is plenty of room to grow: just over 40 percent of the populace has an internet subscription. The report adds, India will increase the number of internet users by about 40 percent to between 750 million and 800 million and double the number of smartphones to between 650 million and 700 million by 2023.

“The last mile of the digital highway is not infrastructure but skills of the users”, says Debjani Ghosh, Intel - South Asia Head.

Talking about the key element of digital first economy, i.e. IoT, V.R. Vijay Anand, Digital Practice Head says, “IoT can help generate data for predictive decisions; knowledge management comes in with rules and repositories about maintenance, problem solving and learning from experiences.”

Proactive, and pre-emptive are the two counter-actions India has exhibited in the COVID19 crisis. This is obviously and fairly followed by high level of commitment from the political and medical fraternity. The national lockdown has brought to light the very soul of the good deeds that exists in our society. Political leaders, the medical fraternity and influencers are creating awareness, promoting social distancing and hygiene measures to contain the virus. Or at least they’re trying. Its no secret that the government has taken the society approach to curb the virus at community level first.

India’s healthcare system has taken necessary steps to detect patients, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts so that the disease can be controlled. While the heavy lifting is taken care of with full prejudice, social distancing forms the core of controlling the virus till vaccination is developed. In tandem with the lockdown, public health interventions have supported tremendously in controlling the pandemic.

All things considered, in a country like India with a population being a subject of colloquy, urban clusters would require further measures to dodge large scale community spread of the virus. Not to condescend the slow growth trajectory, the country is witnessing spike in the number of cases in the last few weeks.

Technology has surprised people from all walks of life today. With tools to connect at community

levels, every generation is able to collaborate, communicate and engage in spreading awareness. The ubiquitous nature of smart phones and affordable Internet penetration into urban, semi-urban and even parts of rural India has made it possible to weaponize digitization to bridge the communication gap taking place due to social distancing and thereby fight COVID in our own turf. Digital connectivity of people, awareness about situations in their respective societies, RWAs (Resident Welfare Association) taking control measures accordingly and making people active and socially aware; everything is helmed and enabled by digital tools. Let’s just say, if every community picks its digital tool and takes necessary actions, India will involuntarily witness a flatter curve at state levels, and then at the national level.

I see the following four ways of digital interaction has made communities more active during the COVID crisis:

Bridging Community Gap: Evidently, as social distancing forms the mandate; social interaction has taken a setback in every community. Digital interaction will solve the very first challenge of lack of communication within communities. Remember the feeling of oneness while clapping together from our houses or lighting candles, digital interaction can empower everyone with the sense of being together, helping build community spirit.

Staying Aware of Progress in COVID Cases: People exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms can instantly convey the same to RWAs. Following this, necessary steps is set on motion which include informing medical authorities and placing the infected person on quarantine. Such sharing of information has proven to mobilize the heads of the society pointing towards steps like sanitizing and conducting thermal screening can be taken to protect other members of the society from contracting the virus.

Connecting with local vendors: This is very out there in the open. Online e-commerce platforms have come to the rescue by helping people with groceries. However, people have faced the challenge of getting delivery slots due to sharp surge in demand. If people could connect with community grocery stores and vendors, pre-ordered the items and collected it whenever feasible, challenges with groceries could have been solved at community level itself.

Build neighbour knowledge: Lockdown and social interaction has worked in favour of us allowing us to know our neighbors and society members. More so than sharing only society based awareness building communication, technology is useful in building neighbor relationship to the next level. Help an elderly couple in the society struggling with groceries or medicines! Connect with an expecting mother in the society and chat with her on a daily basis just to boost her moral and extend emotional support!

The Surge in Social Media Traffic
Reports by the market research firm Nielsen suggest, social media activity experienced a whopping 50X surge in India in the wake of the global pandemic, COVID-19. An important and interesting finding was, the intensity of the social media activity witnessed a huge jump whenever Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi addressed the nation and made announcements related to curfew or lockdown. No surprise there, but interesting indeed.

The first week of lockdown witnessed Indians spending more than four hours every day on social media leading to an 87 percent increase in its usage in comparison to a week before lockdown. On the brighter side of this sudden increase in digital consumption of social media, a lot of awareness campaigns were triggered on social media which helped people across the country to know about the essentials of the lockdown as well as the precautionary measures to be taken during this time.

Further to the surge in social media usage, television consumption, rate of internet browsing, and online video streaming, also took a rise. This only shows how people can make the best of technology surrounding them. Now since, every company has introduced the concept of work from home, new ways are discovered to interact with employees and clients to ensure that there are no business losses. Basically, communication is undergoing full scale makeovers.

In the light of the current situation and the extensive use of digital channels and platforms, it becomes important that brands utilise this time to keep their presence strong in the digital space. This is the time when you can create long-lasting relations with your target audience, building trust and loyalty.

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