Opportunities and threats from the ‘New Normal”

I think it has been acknowledged by most people that there is something called a ‘new normal’ as the result of Covid-19. This assumes that you are not one of the conspiracy theorists that believe that this whole pandemic is a hoax perpetrated by Bill Gates for every reason from power and more money to genocide to save the planet!

Of course, we all have a view of what the ‘new normal’ looks like and much of it revolves around wearing masks everywhere and bumping elbows instead of shaking hands. Incidentally, given that the swap test specifically tests the inside of the nose, where presumably the virus is most likely to enter, why do people insist on wearing their masks below their noses!

One major benefit of the journey to the ‘new normal’ has been the recognition of the irrelevance of celebrities and their opinions. Suddenly starved of coverage they have resorted to embarrassing themselves in an effort to gain exposure.

However, on closer examination, the ‘new normal’ has much more to do with a step change in technology. Put people into lockdown and even the most Luddite amongst us start to FaceTime and order groceries online.

With me it started by ordering groceries because we were in lockdown and unable to keep popping to the shops. In no time at all we discovered that online shopping made us more disciplined and instead of popping out two or three times a week for things we had forgotten, we could shop in about fifteen minutes at a smart phone.

There where obvious problems through complacency when we didn’t check sizes and packing. This resulted in 16 cans of coconut milk instead of four and 250 ml of tonic for gin instead of a litre. How ever, confidence soon meant we were ordering everything from DIY to curtain materials. Not to mention living on Thai curry!

Lockdown also educated us into ordering food for delivery. We had always assumed that food deliveries were for fast food establishments and young people, but soon discovered food of all types and qualities, often from our favourite restaurants.

Along with all of this extra time came a need to fill it during lockdown. Even when rules were relaxed, we soon found less need to wander shopping malls or usual attractions. This has led to the start of my next book, a renewed desire for me and my wife to getting back to learning Turkish and a desire to both learn chess.

As someone who is certainly the wrong side of retirement age and who had a healthy scepticism of IT after twenty years in the industry, I have now discovered the pleasures of the extra quality time that IT can give me.

Which brings me to the potential opportunities for entrepreneurs that the ‘new normal’ brings. From those that are into IT there are a plethora of opportunities to work in many areas. The first is to identify applications that provide for more of the mundane activities to be done online.

There is also ample opportunity for applications that provide additional recreational activities through online learning or through gaming of various sorts.

Talking of education, clearly there is an opportunity for providing enhanced learning experiences for children through online learning. Such applications will not only fit with the ‘new normal’ but would address many of the disadvantages of the existing education system.

Not only would online applications reduce the climate change impact of school car runs, it could herald in a number of other applications that would remove the need to travel so much. Even businesses that have believed in the need to physically see staff have identified the potential increase in productivity, along with the better work/life balance, that removing travel can make.

None of this has even touched on the potential of AI and big data to open up further opportunities. With the technology presently available, how important is it to physically report to a doctor for many ailments? With data from your smartphone or watch and access to your medical records, surely wait time for doctors could be reduced along with a further reduction on damage to the climate.

What this tells us is that many of the practices of the past, such as people shopping daily, going to school at the same time, people commuting longer and longer distances and buildings to house workers, pupils and shops are not fit for the ‘new normal’.

What it also tells us that the more intelligent amongst us have recognised that mass, organised functions are out for the ‘new normal’. Smaller dinner party type gatherings are starting to reappear. This leads to a smaller but much more intimate group of friends with an increase in quality of engagement. I recently spotted someone on Facebook who professed to have over 1000 friends! Bet they don’t get much of her time given she would have to meet with three a day on every day of the year.

There will also be a need for more intimate forms of entertainment. Things like South East Asian Karaoke Booths may well become popular elsewhere. Real dancing and non-contact sports may well need facilities and operators.

But I started by referring to the threats of the ‘new normal’ as well as to the opportunities. The most obvious of these comes from the increase in the use of online applications to carry our mundane tasks. Cleary security becomes an issue, particularly for people who have ignored IT for so long. In many countries the increase in scams during lockdown has been significant.

But even assuming that the necessary security opportunity is taken, there is a further threat to our way of life if online applications take too much of a hold. Unless the non-IT opportunities grow hand in hand with the IT opportunities, we run the risk of an older generation becoming IT addicts.

What an irony it would be if the parents and grandparents who decried young people for their obsession with their smartphones were to end up just like them. Could we end up with young people in the ‘new normal’ begging adults to get off the computer or smartphone and talk to them at dinner!



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