The pandemic has altered the acceptance of technology in our lives. Living through social isolation, many had little choice but to pivot their lives and embrace new ways of connecting to technology for work productivity, health & wellness, and convenience. Contactless interaction within our communities has become a new normal in everyday life.
While our physical world interactions receded, we became more reliant on tech to navigate daily life. The adoption rate of web conferencing applications for work and personal use increased by staggering numbers. On the health side of our lives, telehealth between patients and physicians has suddenly become the norm for non-urgent matters. No one predicted the need for social distancing would profoundly affect our relationship with technology in such a short period of time.
While the majority of society has been in a position to adopt apps and adapt to a technological interface rather than a human one, many marginalized sectors in society have been negatively impacted. Lacking access to the Internet or a device for connectivity, those populations are facing a decline in health and wellness resources, food insecurity, and social crisis.
PeaceGeeks Arrival Advisor App
At PeaceGeeks, we have been proponents of digital tools since our Canadian launch of the Arrival Advisor app in 2017. Built to overcome language barriers, the app delivers a contactless dashboard for newcomers to help them navigate essentials including information about COVID-19, registration for the Medical Services Plan (MSP), online banking knowledge, and BC-wide navigation with Maps compatibility. Arrival Advisor is just one of the tech tools PeaceGeeks has built to strengthen communities in the pursuit of settlement and well being in Canada.
The Boom in Telehealth Apps
In Canada, we are fortunate to be a very well-connected broadband society. This allows us to use video conferencing and mobile apps to virtually visit our medical practitioners. The ability to stay in the safety of our homes and speak with our care providers over the Internet is a game-changer for healthcare systems. Very quickly we established a new level of trust warming up to sharing our health care concerns and privacy over contactless technology.
Canadian company Dialogue Technologies is a telehealth platform that offers patients and their practitioners virtual visits. They have found that over 60% of health concerns can be solved without a visit to the doctor’s office. They offer special COVID-19 resources including a virtual tool called Chloe, which addresses coronavirus related questions.
Mind Beacon is a digital mental-health services app available in French and English providing people with therapy wherever and whenever they need to connect. High demand for mental health services has been one of the many consequences to society during COVID-19.
In British Columbia, telehealth startup WELL Health Technologies has growing adoption serving 8,200 doctors across 1,446 clinics. Their VirtualClinic+ telehealth service gives Canadians across the country convenient access to physicians where and when they need it. The company also launched an Automated COVID-19 Triage Tool (ACTT), an automated phone, SMS, and web-based healthcare platform for Canadians.
Contactless is Retail’s Safe Buzzword
A wide spectrum of retailers have adapted quickly to maintain a consumer base during COVID-19. Faced with widespread changes within our traditional bricks and mortar retail locations coupled with people’s desire to isolate and socially distance means many apps were widely adopted to buy everything from groceries to medications for home delivery.
Instacart is a gateway app that uses contract shoppers to shop for customers in major Canadian retailers and grocery stores. It has filled a void for some demographics including seniors to receive home delivery. While apps may provide an alternative for some during the pandemic, many Canadians are faced with distinct challenges accessing technology. Food insecurities have been magnified for many as people are unable to visit their usual local stores or access the food banks.
The British Columbia provincial government provided emergency funding of $3 million to help food banks across our province fight the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted vulnerable people in many communities who are reliant on food banks. Local grocers have also been impacted by food supply chain shortages of essential goods while they reshape their operations to accommodate physical distancing and personal protective gear. This in turn has contributed to rising food costs for everyone.
In the lower mainland, the Emergency Relief Society of Vancouver (ERSV) is a volunteer organization that goes the extra mile to bring food and medicine needed to isolated people including the elderly population. There are more than 100 food banks across British Columbia that are serving populations in need. While some offer delivery if volunteers are available most are short of extra resources during this difficult time. In Port Coquitlam, Food Bank on Wheels provides their services through volunteer delivery.
The COVID-19 impact on families is that 20% of British Columbia’s children may experience a hunger gap now that school breakfast and lunch programs are closed for the summer. Backpack Buddies is operating food distribution hubs working with partner community centres and non-profit agencies across Metro Vancouver.
Mobile Pay Apps Dominate Cash
Mobile wallet apps, including Apple Pay and other digital solutions for ecommerce have experienced a pandemic surge as Canadians have opted for digital payment over cash and cheques during COVID-19. In Canada, we predominantly use Interac for etransfers and other payment services. Based on high adoption and an increased use of over 43% since March 2020, this suggests a more permanent shift in the acceptance of digital currencies and tech platforms. Contactless retail, such as online ordering, has provided many with a way to feel safer during this challenging time.
Our No Touch Future
The pandemic will permanently impact the integration of technology and apps into every aspect of our life. During COVID-19, our PeaceGeeks blog has touched on the profound changes society is witnessing. With our overarching focus on settlement for new immigrants to Canada and peace, we remain a strong voice for promoting equality, and social inclusion for all Canadians.