There is a lot of talk done on the negative effects of Covid-19. Many of the writers have described, warned, and suggested against the impacts of the disease which undisputedly has been the immediate need given the Covid’s global spread. Now as Covid-19 is fortunately subsiding, lockdown is officially being lifted up, and institutions and businesses are opening up again in the country, the positive impacts, the opportunities, and the areas to be reflected must be discussed. Education, business, and working experiences are tremendously moved yet these are the same areas in which we have been witnessing new opportunities whereas the health sector deserves straight away attention.
Notwithstanding the challenges which include but not limited to connectivity and technological issues, the education sector is now opened to a number of opportunities. Learning is now borderless, timeless, independent and more convenient. Students treated and taught under the current digital settings are efficient digital users and ultimately the leaders of yet more digitally advanced eras. The sharing of material and submission of assignments have become much easier. Furthermore, educators, pedagogues and researchers have a wider platform to increase their outreach and impact. For institutions, it has reduced a bigger fraction of the cost of arranging and managing conferences, seminars and sessions and at the same time the influence is greater as a greater audience can be reached and educators are not bound to be present at the event physically.
Physical classes are indeed not unimportant especially in Pakistan where digital challenges are recurrent however while the country is resuming the education, an aggregate system of both online and offline education can be generated where students and educators can enjoy the pleasures of learning. Besides, it is the duty of institutions to create digital awareness among parents and other stakeholders for this aggregate system to run smoothly.
Despite businesses being affected worldwide, the world has also seen a rise in e-commerce as it both ensures social distancing and reduces the chances of being exposed to the virus. Pakistan has seen the internet usage surge by over 15% in the last few months, youth have turned to online businesses with e-Commerce projected to a drastic growth of PKR 158 billion in the current year from PKR 99.3 billion recorded in 2018. These online businesses are mainly home based and include SMEs.
Although Pakistan’s trajectory is promising, online businesses still depend on CODs, youth lack business development skills and cross border e-commerce is yet to be developed. Many businesses use private courier services which speaks volume for the state of Pakistan Post. Banks should come forward with better incentives to replace CODs, and the government should look into reducing sales tax for e-payments. Introducing business development courses in both private and public educational institutions is one of the many immediate needs of ever exploding Pakistani youth given the global demand for e-commerce.
The pandemic has also altered the working patterns for the employees. Work from home has blurred the working hours for many but it has been proved suitable for an enough number of workforce largely for women considering the social setting in Pakistan. Where it has disturbed the working environment for some, to others, it has also given an opportunity to work in the comfort of home. Although it is necessary to maintain decorum at a certain level, the employers mostly exploit it. For example, they usually deduct the salaries for late-comers. Besides, regardless of the nature of the job, the presence of the employee is mandatory. Now, the commutation cost is reduced and energy saved could be utilized for other healthy activities. In fact many people, during quarantine, have developed healthy habits such as exercise, meditation, and many have addressed themselves to various hobbies. Working from home means one could spend more time with family and that is an undeniable blessing.
By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the mushroom growth of Covid 19 had caught the attention of the world. It has exposed the weaknesses of the global health system. Pakistan has been no exception. When the dilapidated health care system of the country was overloaded, we came to know that we never were prepared for an emergency response.The medical staff, equipment and quarantine centers were short. What added to the injury was lack of a united leadership; our leaders took long to come to one page meanwhile bashing each other to score political points.
The best or the worst, the response to the pandemic has given us a few takeaways to look into: the pandemics and epidemics are uncertain thus the plan must be to spend on emergency response preparedness; the other need is to establish a proactive public health care system where every citizen of the state could access the same health care facilities who are otherwise are exploited by private hospitals cum commercial organizations. The goal and priority must be the welfare of the citizens.
The talk is done now is the time to walk the talk.