We are currently living in an unprecedented time, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world and taking far too many precious lives. Markets are being decimated and economies are on the brink of a global depression. Doctors, nurses, shopkeepers, pharmacy workers and everyone else working on the front lines will go down in history as the heroes of 2020. COVID-19, although devastating and disruptive, has revealed what can be achieved by humanity when individuals, governments, non-governmental organizations and corporations genuinely work in tandem to find adequate solutions to the most pressing issues.
Although trivial in comparison to the devastation that the pandemic has had on human lives, the economy has undoubtedly suffered. Stock markets have been hit hard, posting some of the worst quarterly results in history, while countless businesses from airlines to bakeries and almost everything in between are dealing with crippling cash shortages as revenues fall to zero.
In many cases, governments are having to pick up the tab and cover the wages of those who have been made redundant, provide tax relief and even distribute food en masse to avoid famine. These steps are aimed at preventing a complete collapse of their respective economies.
Although a complete assessment of the ramifications cannot be accurately completed until years from now, what we can do is assess what has happened, what is currently happening and what we should expect in future.
Beyond the economic impact, we are witnessing one of the greatest changes in terms of social norms and work practices in history, with a vast shift toward digitally orientated living. Adoption of tap and pay and other digital forms of payment have seen a meteoric rise in usage to avoid transmission of the coronavirus through touching pin pads or exchanging cash. Individuals and businesses late to the digital payments party are now likely realizing the benefits of digital payments, and are unlikely to switch back post-crisis. Fintech and blockchain solutions that enable contact-free payments will be a clear winner here, alongside other innovative platforms that facilitate digital transactions.
We are also seeing swathes of businesses moving toward remote working. Post-crisis, it is inevitable that some, if not most companies will see that their business can remain remote to some degree, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. This will mean that many employees will become acquainted with a digital way of life, but will also expose the inefficiencies of traditional paper-based processes and systems such as certifications, contracts, receipts and other forms of paper trails.
Emerging over the last decade and accelerated by the current situation is an overarching zeitgeist centered around the digitization of legacy infrastructure. What we are seeing is a change of collective mindset on a massive scale that will supercharge the adoption of digital technologies. We are only a short few hops away from a broad, if not global, realization that most paper-based operations can be facilitated and recorded through digital means while being highly available, secured and authenticated by blockchain technology. Now, more than ever, the need for cost savings, increased efficiency and transparency is omnipresent, and emerging technologies such as blockchain have highlighted the dire need for such solutions.
One area where this is particularly relevant is in healthcare. Many hospitals and clinics remain siloed, making it difficult for medical professionals to access patients’ medical data. Countless records remain paper-based and locked in filing cabinets, making it difficult to access, especially given the current circumstances. These archaic practices simply don’t make sense in 2020, and blockchain presents a solution to this very problem. By uploading medical records to the blockchain, silos are broken down and access is democratized to ensure essential records can be accessed when needed.
COVID-19 has brought about an unprecedented level of devastation, and with that has come a great deal of change. It’s clear that human practices are changing, businesses are adapting to evolving needs, and governments are making big decisions. The pandemic has highlighted the holes that exist within society, namely in regards to outdated practices that haven’t weathered the storm. We will likely see a surge in emerging technologies that meet the evolving demands of a society — no less at a time when change is needed most.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Kailin O’Donnell is co-founder and director of NEM Ventures, the venture capital and investment arm of the NEM blockchain ecosystem. With a background in software development, Kailin is a privacy and open-source advocate who has been deeply involved in the blockchain industry for more than six years. Beyond his professional career, Kailin assists developers and companies in the NEM open-source ecosystem and contributes to various community-driven initiatives.