COVID-19 Forced Us All to Experiment. What Have We Learned?

Telework, telelearning, telemedicine, and telecommerce are here to stay

9 min read
Chad Hagen

LIFE IS A HARD SCHOOL: First it gives us the test and only then the lesson. Indeed, throughout history humanity has learned much from disasters, wars, financial ruin—and pandemics. A scholarly literature has documented this process in fields as diverse as engineering, risk reduction, management, and urban studies. And it's already clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the arrival of the future along several dimensions. Remote working has become the new status quo in many sectors. Teaching, medical consulting, and court cases are expected to stay partly online. Delivery of goods to the consumer's door has supplanted many a retail storefront, and there are early signs that such deliveries will increasingly be conducted by autonomous vehicles.

On top of the damage it has wreaked on human lives, the pandemic has brought increased costs to individuals and businesses alike. At the same time, however, we can already measure solid improvements in productivity and innovation: Since February 2020, some 60 percent of firms in the United Kingdom and in Spain have adopted new digital technologies, and 40 percent of U.K. firms have invested in new digital capabilities. New businesses came into being at a faster rate in the United States than in previous years.

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