The fact that there’s rampant inequality around the world – and inequality rampant even within wealthier nations – is nothing surprising to any of us. However, as with many other social ills, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated this inequality in new ways.
Those living in densely populated areas and working in public-facing service jobs are far more likely to catch the virus that those with spacious living arrangements who can work safely from their home. Moreover, those who catch the virus are far more likely to survive if they have access to healthcare.
COVID-19 has spurred some positive steps toward equality. For example, some governments have rolled out more widespread internet access in order to facilitate schooling and work-from-home opportunities for those who may not have had the means previously.
Those rollouts are just a start, though. Once we’ve overcome the pandemic, we’ll have to undertake the difficult task of rebuilding society – and we must work to rebuild it in a more equitable way.
Cloud and internet access: two key drivers of widespread equality
Connectivity brings people access information from all over the globe; similarly, the cloud makes internet-based services scalable to demand without becoming cost-prohibitive.
Economically, cloud’s ability to scale with low incremental costs has meant more people can access services without an explosion in costs. Users don’t need to pay up front or negotiate with a sales rep – they can use a credit card (even a prepaid one), and only pay for the resources they need. These resources can be accessed for pennies, and free tiers allow entrepreneurs to learn and experiment.
We’ve already seen some of these changes begin as a result of COVID-19. Evolving needs have encouraged innovation, and cloud – which can be provisioned remotely without capital – has allowed developers to rapidly build new services from all over the world. The education, business, and healthcare industries have all quickly pivoted to embracing cloud-based delivery models to replace face-to-face interactions.
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If we can scale during a crisis, why not scale for the common good?
Let’s keep this spirit of agility and innovation going post-pandemic. If we’ve used cloud to bring healthcare to people in their homes during the pandemic, why can’t we continue to do the same for those who live in underserved or rural communities afterward? Similarly, if cloud lets us work from home, why can’t we use it to provide a way for poorer communities to gain skills and even work remotely, sustaining and growing local economies?
New practices and technologies that promote societal change
We’ve seen massive changes driven by businesses in response to the pandemic across the past 8 months, often with cloud as the enabler. Our ask is that organizations consider whether these new practices and technologies can make a difference to society.
Can you now reach people who were previously unreachable? Can you break down barriers to adoption, even if that barrier is poverty or unequal access to opportunity? Can you train and hire people who don’t have the means to move? Can you now afford to give away some of your capabilities to those who can’t possibly pay in order to put resources into the hands of potential innovators?
These aren’t just warm and fuzzy ideas – they can have a huge positive impact on business as well. On a 1-10 scale, mid-level and senior IT professionals rated the impact of social and environmental issues on their organization’s IT procurement policies as 5.32 and 5.29, respectively, according to the 451 Alliance. So, although these aren’t the most important aspects of procurement, they can make a significant difference.
On top of that, expanded access brings diverse viewpoints, driving improved innovation and adaptability. It brings an introduction to a whole new audience that today, or even tomorrow, might represent a new market opportunity.
With COVID-19, it’s never been more important to keep an open mind to the possibilities. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent…it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
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