New digital habits will be a gift to hostile actors unless governments and internet users show vigilanceby David Omand / March 19, 2020 / Leave a comment
The internet is coming into its own, a digital coming of age, during the Covid-19 pandemic. The world of interpersonal internet communication will never be the same again. The present global crisis is the first in which we can see how valuable internet purchasing and social media are in preserving the fabric of everyday life and the personal interactions that are at the heart of our shared humanity. For the first time in our history we do not have to face alone the isolation of ignorance, quarantine or social distance in the face of communicable disease. But with that welcome public reliance on digital connectivity comes a different vulnerability, especially for those most at risk from the disease. For criminal greed and authoritarian malice do not respect our difficulties, they thrive on them.
With so many of us who are at particular risk from catching Covid-19, including myself, now confined indoors, our previous direct interactions with families and friends are having to cease. By working from home, and exercising the need to maximise social distance, we will miss the everyday banter of colleagues, and the stimulus contact with them has on our sense of proportion and indeed our creativity. This is where internet-enabled one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communications applications can help so much in keeping us connected. And ordering food and essential supplies online protects others as well as ourselves from cross-infection.
Relatively few of us are used to daily video and audio conferencing, but these applications are now what we all need to learn to use for social and communal purposes, not just business needs. The elderly are at greater risk when they catch the virus and for them social distance is most important. Yet they are on average going to be the least familiar with the power of internet-enabled communications and online shopping. Bringing them up to speed and helping them have access to digital technology is therefore a pressing task for families and friends, and carers and communities. We know that being cut off from human contact has profound psychological consequences and can even affect our immune response to disease. Digital contact is in the circumstances an essential substitute.
The elderly at-risk groups have…