Back to the Future
By Alistair Kellie
Rumours are spreading like wildfire on WhatsApp; video conferencing is the norm; radios are on all day and we wait with bated breath for the daily press conference from Number 10.
The way that we communicate is once again going through a seismic shift but not in the way that we could have predicted just three months ago. In addition to the adoption of new technology as we work remotely, we’re also going ‘back to the future’.
For many people, home working used to be the exception and was usually a time to think, write, or simply to get through management or administrative tasks. However, the new normal is that we are all having to adjust to days packed full of conference calls, VCs and direct calls. As a result, many people are finding themselves using Microsoft Works, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and other platforms, sometimes for the first time. These are all fantastic and will continue to be used post Covid-19. However, the strain on mobile phone networks means that at times people are also reverting to that phone device with a cord…yes, a landline. I found ours yesterday!
At the same time the volume of emails has gone through the roof. I’m sure I’m not alone in urging colleagues to avoid unnecessary ‘reply alls’. As a result, we’re all making more phone calls, which returns to the previous point about the range of platforms we can use, subject to capacity.
With children now off school, domestic broadband will have the additional burden of children working remotely and gaming, let’s hope it can cope! The strain has been such that the European Union has called on Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services to consider temporarily reducing streaming quality to ease the burden on broadband networks. I urge the government and technology companies to increase the roll-out rate of fibre across the UK.
Many children are anxious about how long they will be unable to speak to their friends. Given the (correct) minimum age for children to have access to social channels, parents might have to start thinking of video play dates and other ways to encourage social interaction beyond the family.
Return of radio. Thinking of children, many are now more engaged with live TV and radio than they ever were before. As we have already seen, public service broadcasters recognise the crucial role they will play informing, educating and entertaining us.
Will we see a return (for a while anyway) of shared family entertainment? As live shows become more difficult we’re likely to see some of the ‘classics’ from our youth returning. Let’s hope broadcast planners think beyond repeats of Only Fools and Horses!
Many communities (streets, lanes, villages) have started community forums and groups on social channels. These will be crucial to ensure that those in need are supported and to reduce the feeling of isolation. Some communities are also starting ‘social distance’ walks and getting to know neighbours they had previously only passed in the road.
We have already witnessed considerable changes in the way we communicate and we can expect more innovation over the coming weeks and months as tech firms look to accommodate and pivot to changing consumer and business demand.