Written by Mar Negreiro,
The coronavirus pandemic is bringing an unforeseen acceleration in the digital transformation of societies around the world. This is the first pandemic in history in which digital technologies are being used on a massive scale to keep people connected while in isolation, allowing them to telework, follow online courses, shop online or consult health professionals from home. As a result, internet traffic has increased substantially since confinement began. According to EU Member States’ national regulators, operators have so far been able to manage this surge, while also introducing many exceptional measures, such as temporarily removing broadband data caps and making extra data and free online content available.
The current crisis has highlighted the importance that upgraded telecoms networks and 5G will have for societies and economies. Furthermore, now that confinement has started to ease, it is increasingly clear that digital technology will continue to play a very important longer-term role in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. The scope of contact-tracing apps is likely to expand, and teleworking, telehealth and e-learning are likely to become more prevalent than before.
However, the most popular digital apps, whether for e-commerce, social media, videoconferencing or contact tracing are not of EU origin, posing concerns for the EU’s digital dependency, competitive advantage and data privacy. In fact, the coronavirus crisis has further consolidated the existing dominance of ‘Big Tech’.
The pandemic has further exacerbated existing issues; for instance, the digital divide has broadened further and there has been a global rise in cybersecurity incidents. The EU is poised to tackle these issues, while at the same time embracing the digital transformation in our lifestyles and allowing the internet to play a critical role in defeating the virus.
Read the complete briefing on ‘How digital technology is easing the burden of confinement‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘How digital technology is easing the burden of confinement’ on YouTube.