It seems that every time the earth makes a full loop around the sun we need to analyse the future. Certainly, in this case, taking into account the role played by technology over the last year, focussing on what 2021 will mean for ICT evolution is essential. If a year ago today, somebody had placed a bet, the most optimistic contender would have predicted just a small part of what 2021 has meant for digitalisation. Such hyper-rapid evolution and such deep change would not have appeared even in the craziest of geek predictions, if I may use that term.
Some estimates suggest our digital world has advanced five years or more during this horrible pandemic year; one that has left so much pain, and continues to plague a society whose habits have irretrievably transformed. Changes focused on the technological field in work, health, education, environment, business, commerce, feminism and equality need consolidation if we are to maintain the many positives achieved. Therefore, ‘consolidation’ is the word that should guide us in enabling, growing, supporting and strengthening telework, telemedicine, tele-education, e-commerce and digital leisure.
The opportunity for society at this crucial moment of digital consolidation is enormous. Whereas connectivity was previously one important issue among many, it is now essential in terms of equality. Whereas digitalisation in health and education was once a matter of modernisation without urgency, now it is essential in assuring access to these universal services. Whereas before teleworking was a labour market rarity, often viewed negatively or with suspicion, today it is a reality that opens job opportunities to global talent. People are able to work from less populated areas, save commuting time, and dedicate more time to leisure. Whereas pre-lockdown, ecommerce was something that rang a bell, today it is an essential window to communicate with clients, no matter in what sector your business operates. Finally, leisure and information no longer follow a strict schedule and format; nowadays they are free and on demand.
These fast changes in our lives have been very positive, but we must recognise that they have happened in response to a worldwide pandemic, and we have built them as provisional digital solutions in many cases. Their consolidation is precisely the task that must occupy us in the coming years. Total fibre and 5G connectivity, which opens the development of telemedicine to the entire population, and new global opportunities offered by digital education, will undoubtedly form the basis of a new premise of equality, allowing access to all essential services regardless of where we are. Equally, in the short and medium term, cementing fair electronic business relationships, establishing the rules of the game for truthful, responsible and universal information access, and globalizing leisure activities within a cultural environment that encourages creativity, are the goals in digitalisation that we must prioritize. The new digital society, that has sometimes seemed overwhelming, has nonetheless saved jobs, medical care, academic courses, businesses and people from loneliness. Our task is to connect all the pillars of this new scenario, seeking unique strategies for communication, connectivity, storage and the exploitation of tools.
A modern society that seeks to advance towards equality must benefit from the accelerated path that digitization has proposed to us in times of Covid. The technological environment, which does not distinguish between sexes, harmonizes rights and duties without concern for geography, offers the same opportunities to all citizens and is blind to discrimination, needs strengthening in a way that places people at the centre of action.