Throughout all the years I’ve worked in and around humanitarian crisis, there one thing people want the most. Connection. They want to be able to connect with their family, friends, & community. Second to this, and closely linked, is communication. These realisations have led the humanitarian community to restore communication ability for the community as one of the first things we do. And now, we also provide ‘charging’ stations for phones etc. as part of a response.
So isolation and social distancing are hard asks of people. Especially when we feel fine ourselves. And while I have some concerns about big tech coming in and using this pandemic as an excuse to destroy our privacy even more, I think there are others roles they could play. “Small” things to help those affected stay connected with their family and community. (This is of course in addition to all kinds of things they could do to help the health systems)
They could boost the wifi capacity in hospitals, care homes, and any place of treatment so that the patients could have connection and communicate with loved ones.
For those less digital literate, ‘cheap’ phones or tablets with a series of ‘apps’ labelled call Frank, call Miriam, call Sam, call Fatima, and so on could be provided. These ‘apps’ could be video calls to their family and friends. Nothing else. No backend analytics. No data collection on usage or who is calling who. Just a kind gesture of enabling connection to someone isolated and ill.
And for the rest of us who are self-isolating, it can be good to be reminded most of life is not cancelled – reading, checking in on your neighbour, writing, drawing, gardening, getting outside, picnics, walks, board games, home movie nights, family dinner, sending cards, and so on. And there is a massive amount of online learning available for those inclined – many of which have lots of interaction with other humans!
Most of all, no matter how you feel about your government’s response to this pandemic, spare a moment for those health care staff on the frontline. And their families. Most health systems are built to withstand 24hrs of intense crisis, not 3-4 months. Health staff are at risk and they and their families are anxious. Show them gratitude and kindness in any and every way you can. They deserve it. Every ounce of it.