The virus has left a lasting imprint on the present generation. Many people have not yet recovered fully from the infection and many others still lamenting on the loss of their dear ones and coping with the new realities. It is understandable that the pains will take long time to perish.
Apart from such tragedies all over the world, which probably get less attention of the governments than immediate priorities of bringing down the infection rates and getting out of blame, the world is also witnessing new ways of social interactions. Many people consider it as positive which is actually a reinforcement of the pre-COVID technology drivers. Such a social interaction had started with the widespread use of cell phones for both social and economic interactions. We are witnessing a form of digital dogmatism where people’s life are dictated by information received through the media- electronic and cell phones. It is an era where the other person in physical form is not important in life but they are important as forwarded entities. We increasingly consider the other person only as an entity to be avoided in physical terms!
The interactions are now extremely common for various purposes- Administration including pandemic control, education from the primary to university levels, academic which includes webinars on scholarly topics. It also includes clinical consultations between doctors and patients. This is also a period where we started witnessing extensive misuse of such a platform. Every day, we hear such stories in the media which include honeytraps to threats for extortion of money. But due to the open nature of such technologies, solving of such cases has also become easier for the police.
It is unfortunate that messages are also used to generate falsities, lies and to some extent info terror among people. The pandemic gave an opportunity to expand the already existing such tendencies in the society to a wider platform. Even with respect to COVID, we found in our studies that there were panic generating messages which had been liberally circulated. These were followed by humorous ones, which make fun of people, countries and even the patients, popularly known as social media trolls. A large number cross-posted messages fell into these two categories. A number of forwards try awareness generation using false information received from unknown sources. Unfortunately, updates on government activities are not popular and least forwarded. Partly correct or even incorrect ‘medical’ messages are also being circulated.
The world is looking forward at the moment to the probability of ending this phase in their life as this is indeed an unusual experience to the entire generation. It is in this context, that the current obsession with mobile screen addiction could be also used for a social purpose. The ‘finger consciousness’ certainly has limitations which include sensory limitations as the brain is involved indirectly through several intermediary channels of the body starting with the finger as against direct perceptions.
Despite the negativities associated with such a platform, there are huge possibilities in future for developing a knowledge-based society. This platform is also useful for achieving some of the universal goals that the world community has identified. There are huge possibilities in using this technology for realizing many of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as positive health agenda. What is required is developing a suitable methodological approach which is completely context-based for this purpose.
In class room teaching too, there are opportunities especially in the higher education context although there are negativities too such as widespread ‘digital absenteeism’ and ‘notional attendance’ in such digital classes as there are video and voice dichotomies. In school education, the usual three A’s- Accessibility, Availability and Affordability- predominate. But it has also given an opportunity to expose the new generation, at least some of them, to many world class and established scholars which otherwise would not have been possible. I would consider that in both health and higher education, such technological platforms should be widely utilised and they should continue even during the post-pandemic period. This should be done with subsidized net accessibility through State-sponsored media.
(Professor K Rajasekharan Nayar is affiliated to Global Institute of Public Health and Santhigiri Research Foundation, Thiruvananthapuram)