We have underestimated the pandemic. With each new wave we have missed the opportunity for the benefits of digital transformation to be permanent because we believe -wrongly- that the pandemic will end when we decide and not when conditions make it possible.
A review of the history of pandemics is enough to verify that not only do they not end, but they continue to claim victims even after centuries of arising. Yes, today people still die from the black plague, cholera, seasonal flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola and SARS. Only smallpox has been medically eradicated, because there is an effective vaccine and because it has no animal host. But the measles is back.
According to historians, pandemics end medically or socially, when fear of disease diminishes or is eradicated. With ómicron contagion and fear were accentuated.
All pandemics -including that of Covid-19- have disrupted people’s daily lives and have placed the economy, politics, culture and society in uncertainty. Lessons have been learned from all of them, but the difference with the previous ones is that now humanity has a civilizing tool capable of better facing the disease, alongside the science that works on prevention, vaccines and treatments. That tool is the Internet.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), telecommunications services, connectivity, platforms, digital services, cloud storage, algorithms, Big Data and other digital tools should be used to improve services in a pandemic, but they are still deficient or non-existent.
Although progress has been made in connectivity, in Mexico there is still no public and State conviction towards full digitization.
The Internet should be part of the appropriate public policy to face the health crisis, identify and prevent infections, save lives, improve people’s conditions, help the economy, and build a fairer world during and after the pandemic.
Quarantines are an effective public health tool to interrupt the chain of contagion, but the Internet is also an effective tool, and it also allows many daily activities to continue.
Two years after Covid-19 and a year after the coronavirus vaccines began to be applied, the technologies have lacked a public address, that is, the authorities have not been able to attribute a social function to them that facilitates and improves the quality of life. life of the people.
At a global level and in Mexico, technological innovation is present as advances and progress, but not as a public policy with objectives, strategies, lines of action and evaluation of results, that is what I mean by direction. The digital transformation has irreversibly accelerated, but political action has stagnated and remains in awe.
We have videoconferencing platforms so as not to interrupt work and study from home; mobility and food delivery platforms to support businesses, flexible sources of income and contribute to economic recovery and reactivation; audio and video streaming platforms for home entertainment; educational platforms for more courses and training, e-commerce to buy and Fintech for greater financial inclusion…
All these applications and digital services have prevented contagion and have contributed to solving the problems derived from confinement. But the authorities see in them additional sources of revenue to preserve traditional businesses and regulatory attempts to recover some of the lost control.
Interestingly, what did advance was the global tax pact led by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the agreement between 137 countries to address the tax challenges arising from the digitization and globalization of the economy to collect taxes. to big technology companies.
The countries meet and agree on how to increase their finances exhausted by the millionaire health expenses derived from the pandemic, but they do not do the same to reach a global digital pact based on multisectoral collaboration. Not even the shortage of semiconductors (chips), with the enormous impact on multiple industries and global production chains, has generated a global alliance, but each region, country, developer and manufacturer seeks its own solutions.
On the contrary, during the pandemic, the belligerence and geopolitics between the United States-China-Europe blocs over technological leadership have intensified. While collaboration and data governance would be pertinent, blocking and blacklisting of technology providers persist.
Although a global cybersecurity summit under the principle of multilateral collaboration that commits States to invest more in resilient broadband networks would be unprecedented and valuable, governments accuse each other of cyberattacks and put the world on the brink of a cyber conflagration.
Although government attempts to regulate the data economy, platforms and social networks are understandable, very few institutions have an open data policy and, above all, with programs specifically designed so that these data contribute to providing better public services and provide targeted support to citizens.
The higher the technological level, the higher the level of income, savings and growth, but this does not seem to be understood by Mexico. In the best of cases, the fourth wave of infections caused by the omicron variant may be the last opportunity to make the definitive leap to a modern, digital society. Otherwise, it could be the missed opportunity, as in the previous waves.
President of the Mexican Association of Right to Information (Amedi)
Media and telecommunications analyst and academic from UNAM. Studies the media, new technologies, telecommunications, political communication and journalism. He is the author of the book media presidentialism. Media and power during the government of Vicente Fox.