COVID-19: The Great  Digital Acceleration

COVID-19: The Great Digital Acceleration

As part of an OECD Forum series, the virtual event COVID-19: The Great Digital Acceleration took place on Tuesday, 15 December.

This event has now ended and registration is closed – but don't worry, you can still watch the replay!

The session was an opportunity to reflect on the fact that digital tools have played a central role in mitigating some of the impacts of the COVID pandemic. It is shining a light on both the benefits and risks associated with digital technologies. It has accelerated digitally-driven transformations and fastened the migration of many parts of our lives to the digital world. This holds significant implications for our relationship to digital technologies both during the pandemic and for the recovery, as we strive to develop the “digital future we want”.

Validating the new health technologies and innovations in a post-pandemic world

The potential of telemedicine is well observed during the pandemic time as several consultations with doctors/health experts happened without going to the clinic or hospital. This was a positive sign and urges to look into new business models to help further telemedicine across the world. On this front, it is a time to encourage companies to come to the forefront with a wide range of tech-driven digital healthcare tools and products. It was predicted by the health industry experts that tele-health market across the world is likely to witness a massive spike both from the demand and supply sides. The service providers are assessing capacities and avenues, pursuing evidence-based innovations and technologies across the board, including diagnostic and telemedicine tools, cellphone apps for fitness, well-being, medical and healthcare, and data-driven software. But the argument is that maybe it is the pandemic which compelled to explore and extend these technologies to deal with the special and temporal gaps to access healthcare. The concern shall be to look into how these technologies and innovations will be used in a post-covid world to deal with public health issues. How in coming days, technologies and innovations will be integrated with public health response system for greater accessibility and affordability to health care services should be a priority area of research in public health studies. The pandemic has unraveled the myriad avenues and opportunities in boosting healthcare and life sciences in the world, it would be interesting to look into how health shall be observed as wealth in the post Covid world with technology and innovations as its greatest investment. The challenge in a post-Covid world will be to validate the new technologies and innovations without assuming that they will work because they worked in an uncontrolled emergency situation during the pandemic. This requires new observations regarding the adoption and use of digital health tools and services to receive information and seek social and medical assistance and support in a post-covid world when again the people will have physical access to socio-economic infrastructure, facilities and services. The concern will be to look into how medium and low-income countries will refocus on preventive healthcare in a post-covid world with diverse and massive population, with disproportionate health infrastructure that often impacts medical responses to health emergency situations. When the world will regain its feet in post-covid realties, the challenge will be to recalibrate public health strategies with the help of emerging digital healthcare technologies to strengthen preventive healthcare. Investigations are required to explore the role of government in incentivizing and encouraging healthcare industries to deal with the issues of post-covid safety and care. The integration of health technologies and innovations into health policies and response strategies could be one of the concerned areas of research in post-covid world. The understanding of comprehensive responses of countries that have been successful to deal with covid through the timely and effective deployment of health technologies to facilitate planning, surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and clinical management will help other countries to improve their health strategies and response systems.  
Jul 28, 2023

Rethinking School Technology Bans: Safeguarding children is about finding better technology solutions

The sixth Global Education Monitoring Report, Technology in education: A tool on whose terms? advocates that technology should complement, not replace, real teacher interaction. It's good to see this shift in focus from overhyped technology solutions to learning outcomes. However, there are still challenges with the technology-versus-teachers approach. For a start, it can lead to oversimplification. After COVID19, and prolonged online teaching globally, newspapers have emphasized the negative sides of technology, overshadowing its initially promising potential. Examples of technology bans have been highlighted, making them appear as noteworthy examples for others to follow. Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden caught the world’s media spotlight after they have implemented rules to restrict the use of phones, Chromebooks, and digital textbooks in post-pandemic teaching. The tech-versus-teachers debate can lead one to perceive technology as an adversary. The story can quickly shift to blaming technology for bigger societal issues and pointing fingers at the rapid development and commercialization of tech in today's fast-paced economy. In this system, children are treated as customers, and their actions are turned into business profits. This may be true in some cases, but making profit is not necessarily a bad thing. There are international companies dedicated to children that solve problems while making a profit (consider the LEGO company). It is about the companies’ profit-making strategies, the quality of their products, and their role in addressing (and not creating) problems. Inflexible positions on children's technology have obstructed national digitization policies that solely concentrate on screen time regulations. While well-intentioned, the regulations typically mobilise research studies that rely on inadequate measures. The measures lack the rigor needed to draw powerful conclusions about the impact required for national regulations. Despite this flaw, these studies are still employed to shape national policies on screen time. There is a paradox in this: While technology is evolving towards more personalized experiences, national policies are evolving towards generic bans. Further contradiction is apparent in school or national technology bans. Policy-makers speak of empowering children and valuing their agency, yet they suggest national bans decided and imposed by adults. While it's crucial to protect children with rules and safety measures - and some poorly designed educational technology can indeed be harmful- simply banning it won't lead to the creation of better technology or better learning. Besides, not all technologies in schools are bad; many technologies are beneficial and in some contexts, essential for learning. In developing countries, technology is vital for online tutoring. So, in that case, national technology ban might unintentionally harm children who don’t have other alternatives. The key is to choose technologies purposefully and based on evidence- which calls for some rules and regulations. The bottom line is: empowering children in technology use doesn't start with outright bans, and creating better technology doesn't come from oversimplifying it as screens versus no screens questions. Let us adopt a fresh perspective for children’s technology use in schools, one that directs attention towards the potential of children’s perspectives in creating better technologies and the uplifting impact that high-quality technology can have on their learning journey.

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This event has ended and registration is now closed—but don't worry, you can still ► watch the replay!