The availability of collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Remote Desktop, Pow Wow Now and messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram have enabled and facilitated communication enormously through their live streaming and instant messaging features, all in one place. In addition to existing technologies such as VPN (private network), electronic mail, e-signature software are essential tools to enable a business to operate remotely. To note, all these tools are hosted on the cloud. To put things into perspective, imagine today’s world with the effects of the pandemic but without cloud technology!
Cloud technology has become a fundamental part of the IT systems worldwide, providing an on-demand access of computer system resources, data storage and an ever-increasing demand for large computing power. During the pandemic, the five major cloud providers, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud and IBM, all have expanded their cloud services business to a large extent due to the sky-rocketing demand
Big technology companies have a high degree of corporate social responsibility. Their success has to be very much aligned with that of their customers and the demand of the world, whether they are benefitting businesses to increase their productivity and/or remain competitive, helping the public sector becoming more efficient or helping to resolve major problems of the world, such as reduce poverty, provide education or supply basic necessities to the people, such as access to medical services.
An important aspect of the cloud is how education can be transformed through innovation. The pandemic has accelerated technology into the education sector earlier than planned. With schools and higher educational institutions closed due to lockdowns, academics had to find alternative methods to continue to deliver education to their students. In such short time, lessons and assessments were conducted via existing communication platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. However, these too have drawbacks
Going forward now, academics and technologists are working together to create bespoke solutions for online teaching. This would entail creating an online platform not just for delivering lessons, but it will also include other features such as marking assessments, conduct parent-teachers meeting, mentoring, coaching, interactive presentation, an e-library with educational materials. Students will be able to access the portal from anywhere. This all-round service is only possible when these applications are hosted on the cloud. Currently, even after the pandemic subsides, I think most part of this contingency measures are going to stay, even if the social aspect cannot be replaced
Medicine is another field where cloud technology will continue to contribute enormously. Globally, there is a rapid growth in the telemedicine and telehealth areas since the last decade. Online healthcare startups such as Teladoc, iCliniq, AMwell and Babylon Health came into existence. Simultaneously, the private healthcare insurance industry has equally gained traction with companies such as BupaHealth, CanadaLife and Aviva offering competitive medical insurance packages, all via AI tool.
This pandemic saw an increasing use of technology in patients’ medical needs. In the UK only, with 4 lockdowns, and a surge of patients’ admissions due to COVID, GP clinics and primary health care providers are operating an online-only service as no in-person visit is allowed. The online application is integrated with AI algorithms for giving near accurate diagnosis based on input of medical information, and include a virtual booking system and video streaming capability for live consultations. Even pharmaceuticals dispenser service is now equipped with barcode technology, allowing patients to securely collect prescriptions at their local pharmacies.
With the National Health service already stretching beyond its capacity, and an increase in waiting time, we have seen a rapid growth in private online healthcare providers; for example, the Babylon Health app provides remote consultations with doctors and healthcare professionals via text and video messaging through its mobile app service, accessible from anywhere and on any device specification.
Since the pandemic began, Babylon Health has seen an increasing number of new user registration and is already employing nearly fifteen hundred employees, from just being a start-up half a decade ago. This wouldn’t be possible without strong computing resources and power.
Gaming is another field where cloud technology is the backbone. Cloud-gaming has been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic which has seen an increase of 50M+ gamers online since last year. The surge in demand has brought fierce competition in the gaming console business, not just between the duopoly of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s PlayStation Now, but also between pioneers such as Google’s Stadia, Amazon’s Luna and Nvidia’s GeForceNow
Thanks to improvements in telecommunications and data storage, games can be streamed from data centres directly into smartphones without the need for large computing power in handheld devices. The market for cloudbased gaming is expected to expand by nearly 50% in the next 5 years. Some of the tech giants are already working in partnership to provide a seamless platform for online gaming technology. A concept called ‘cross-progression’ is a strategy aimed at meeting consumers where they are, regardless of their location or device specifications. We have also seen an increasing shift from console gaming to mobile gaming.
“Data protection, storage and its usage, it ethics, artificial intelligence, internet safety and cyber security are the fundamental blocks that would erode trust in technology”
Thankfully, the tech giants, governments and world organisations including the United Nations and European Union, have realised the importance of cyber security, and they have set up frameworks to protect people. They are working together to provide security measures at all levels, including local software applications, online web applications and cloud infrastructures, to ensure and maintain an all-around secured IT network. The Digital Geneva Convention – a convention initiated by the UN in recent years focusing on digital technology – aims at creating new norms and conventions to protect civilians’ rights and interests from state-sponsored cyberattacks.