Sunday, April 14, 2024

Think ahead

It is a fact that we were otherwise living in the age of information technology. Most of our services, from ordering a pizza to booking a flight ticket, were rendered through web portals. E-commerce was an in-vogue thing. Gradually more and more services were coming to us through online medium. Even the structures of governance were taking this medium seriously to deliver services. But despite all these, people would come to offices, go to markets, enter campuses and travel from one place to another. Internet was a great help, in a nutshell. But came COVID-19 and everything changed. While travel and physical interactions stopped, people were confined to homes. Stay home, and work from home became new slogans and new ways of living. But, as was said, with every hardship comes an opportunity. Just some time in lockdown and people started realizing how internet can do wonders in keeping our interactions alive. All our education activities shifted to online mode. As has been said now, novel ideas in the times of novel corona virus, is the way ahead. This is in sync with the human trait of finding a way in wilderness. As thinking beings we cannot wait for the things to change. Sometimes situation demands that minds are pressed into an extraordinary effort to create a change. That is what has been witnessed in these times of pandemic. When the markets were under severe lockdown, we could manage the essentials by making online bookings. When the governments were short of space to manage the COVID positive cases, or to timely isolate the incoming people to the State, the spaces available in hotels and schools were made use of. When schools were closed we found an alternative in the shape of online education. We know all these alternatives are poor substitutes for the normal ways of doing things, but then it allowed us to minimize loss, and to an extent make up for loss. The medical consultations also went online. Government services too, in many cases, took to online mode. Even as markets remained closed, with the partial restoration of transportation, e-commerce started picking up. So much so the even courts started e-hearings. A new field of legal work came to fore – virtual courts. In fact here is a lesson for us, if we can sufficiently reflect on this. Since we have to live with this virus why don’t governments think of using online services, not as an alternative, but a permanent mode of delivery. Wherever it’s possible why don’t we allow people to work from home? This would take much of the human presence in markets and office spaces off. There will also be less traffic on roads. Universities, colleges and schools can also think of making it long term and creating hybrid models where online education becomes a permanent feature. Many people are of the view that if the political leadership and the bureaucracy give up its colonial trappings, we can be free of many encumbrances. One such burden would be the presence of staff all around a high official. If services are made the focus of governance the online medium can prove a great liberator. There will be less need for people to come to office every day. If worked out properly, and thought through in free atmosphere, it can change the landscape of our governance and service delivery. It appears as a very simple thing at the face of it, but then it can open up our minds to more sophisticated ways of delivering a range of services. The point is that if there is a will, as the cliché goes, there is a definite way ahead. There is no wall we can’t find a window in. What matters is our readiness to think, and our passion to try different methods. Since the days of pandemic are far from over, our administration must work hard to give a try to novel ways of restoring, at least, a semblance of normality. Different ideas and methods followed by people around the world can be analyzed and best practices followed to ease life here in the State. The devastating effects of the pandemic on economy, on education, on healthcare and all the walks of life, demand a fierce thinking to surmount these effects.