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When the pandemic’s deadly first wave tore through Europe, a society-wide transition to digital, long in the works, was dramatically accelerated. In a matter of days, following government lockdown orders, remote working, distance learning, telemedicine, and e-commerce became the default – and only option for hundreds of millions of people.
But with effective vaccines hinting at the easing of lockdown restrictions, what do these societal shifts mean for mission-critical sectors such as education, government and healthcare? And as a post-pandemic landscape begins to emerge, what are the lessons for CIOs?
Download the report1. Education
As almost all of Europe went into lockdown in March, institutions from local primary schools to top universities raced to make the switch to remote or distributed learning. “It was as if we were updating the firmware of an entire society in a single week,” recalls Michele Dalmazzoni, Cisco’s collaboration leader for Southern EMEAR.
Mixing hardware, artificial intelligence and cloud based-technology to virtualize the entire learning experience through tools such as Webex Teams, Meetings and Board meant that primary schools could continue to run after-school clubs remotely, while older students could continue to collaborate on projects from their own homes. It even allowed Luiss University in Rome to securely deliver 2,200 exams for 11,400 students online.
The future of this technology is exciting and so what are the new opportunities for education and how will the way we learn evolve?
A range of factors – technological, demographic, and socioeconomic – have converged to herald a new era for governments, which will be increasingly personalized, distributed, and data-led.
Yet if these shifts have been brewing for a while, the pandemic once again hit flash-forward. In the Netherlands, thousands of public sector employees were redeployed remotely over a 48-hour period. Meanwhile Buffalo, New York state’s second largest city, relocated its helpline agents from a call centre to their own homes in the space of a frantic weekend.
Vaughan Klein, director of collaboration EMEAR at Cisco – who has been with Cisco since 2000 and believed he’d “seen it all until the global pandemic struck” – says secure collaborative technology has gone from “nice to have” to “critical infrastructure” in a matter of weeks, with governments around the world racing to make up ground with the private sector when it comes to digital adoption. But what technologies will be key and how can this momentum be sustained?
Telemedicine was already on the rise when Covid-19 struck, family doctor practices were shuttered and most elective surgeries put on hold. Caught in the eye of the pandemic storm, the healthcare sector scrambled to adjust, as secure video consultations and virtual collaboration between medics swiftly became the norm.
Video technology was also used to support the scaling up of intensive care capacity. In London, the ExCel exhibition space was transformed over the course of a week into an NHS Nightingale hospital, capable of handling up to 4,000 patients. Installing a highly secure medical-grade network on the site meant that multidisciplinary (medical) teams could collaborate both in person and virtually.
And this is no blip. Even as the vaccines arrive and the critical phase of the pandemic eases, Justin Woolen, regional sales director at Cisco, says rather than a temporary crisis solution, hybrid healthcare is here to stay.
In a new eBook from WIRED and Cisco, Woolen and other Cisco thought leaders explore these themes, reveal what they learned during the pandemic and discuss why collaborative technology is business critical in the future of education, government and healthcare.
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