Without today’s technology, this crisis could be very different. Learn more about how the UK tech sector is helping businesses, the NHS and those most in need.
On Monday 23rd March, the UK government urged everyone who could, to work from home, limit travel and practice social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading. In the IT industry, tech firms have stepped up, and even joined forces, to help UK businesses, public services and anyone affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Without today’s technology, our experience of quarantine would be very different. Technology has enabled many of us to continue working from home. Video conferencing software and online collaboration tools are helping us to maintain our workflow.
E-commerce technology allows us to buy our shopping online and has enabled many restaurants, cafes and drinks suppliers to continue operating as a delivery service. Even some schools and colleges have been able to continue teaching online.
During these times, it’s important to maintain a consistent rhythm in our everyday lives and technology plays a vital role. Here are some of the ways that the IT industry is helping in the fight against coronavirus:
Staying at home, staying connected
Thankfully, staying at home doesn’t have to mean being alone. A number of tech companies are helping us stay connected with our colleagues, friends and family. Some, are even providing access to their software for free, to encourage people to stay indoors.
Microsoft has made the premium version of its Teams collaboration application available for free, as part of a six-month trial offer. It has also made the software free to NHS workers.
Video conferencing company, Zoom, has removed the time limit from its free tier for affected regions across the globe and has made the app free for any K-12 schools affected in Japan, Italy and the U.S.
Cisco Webex has expanded the features available in its free plan for video conferencing across all countries, which includes unlimited use and participation for up to 100 users.
Instant messaging company, Slack, is offering free upgrades to their paid plans for teams working on coronavirus research, response, or mitigation.
With so many tools available for remote working, it’ll be interesting to see what lasting effects remote working will have on the business landscape. At CWJobs, we’ve always been advocates for workplace flexibility and we hope that the current situation will help more companies realise the benefits of enabling employees to work from home.
Both start-ups and large tech companies have contributed to the development of medical technology to help contain the spread of the virus. From tracking apps to manufacturing medical equipment to support the NHS, tech companies are coming up with innovative ways to help. Dyson, and aerospace companies Thales and Airbus, are producing ventilators for hospitals and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has partnered with WhatsApp to provide virus updates and guidance.
Emerging technologies like big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) are helping the NHS understand the topology and development of the pandemic. Microsoft, Google, Palantir and UK-based FacultyAI are working in collaboration with the NHS to create computer dashboard screens that show the spread of the virus. By harnessing the power of intuitive technology and data analytics, the NHS can use the data to analyse their ability to deal with it.
Up to this point, the NHS has been somewhat digitally risk-averse, so it’ll be interesting to see if this type of collaboration will continue into the future. There are already a number of promising digital health startups in the UK and the market is at a very exciting stage.
Classrooms going digital
Many schools around the country have closed their doors and moved all their classes online. With some schools requesting that students follow their existing timetables, resources like Google Classroom are playing a vital role in ensuring their education continues.
Likewise, online whiteboards and tutoring platforms are helping students who aren’t required to follow their timetables to continue to learn.
Online teaching systems and other educational platforms are also helping parents cope with home-schooling by allowing their kids stay up to date with their coursework.
Online learning has been on the increase for several years now. Will this sudden shift to online learning mark the start of something bigger? It’ll be interesting to see if more schools and colleges adopt online and distance learning initiatives moving forward.
Resources from the tech industry
A collective of UK tech initiatives has come together to help support the UK’s response to coronavirus. Code4covid.org is helping co-ordinate key groups within the tech industry to work on solving tech-focused problems that arise from the virus.
Over 400 tech volunteers have signed up so far, most of which are from the UK. So far, their efforts have created the following resources:
Coronavirus Tech Handbook – a handbook that outlines how tech companies can help.
Covid Mutual Aid – A group that coordinates care efforts for vulnerable people who are self-isolating.
Tech for UK – A slack group dedicated to gathering volunteers and discussing ways to help.
Covid-19 Response – A website dedicated to submitting ideas on how to help during the crisis.
Help with Covid – An international volunteer signup and ideas board.
All these innovations are possible because of the UK’s advanced tech skills. We are proud to see how our industry has come together in using its talent and resources to help others. Having the right people in the tech sector is crucial to staying competitive during these difficult times.