2020 will go down as a year in which everything went wrong, both socially and individually. A killer virus got loose. Racial issues erupted. Certain countries became more aggressive militarily. And people found themselves out of work. And that’s scratching the surface.
In times like these, it can be tempting to turn to the government. But remember, the state has limited powers to do anything, let alone rescue people from complex problems, like a pandemic. It moves slowly, is unwilling to innovate, and has a set of priorities that usually work against the average person.
For that reason, we should look to private ingenuity in dark times. We should never underestimate market participants' collective genius to deliver lasting and meaningful improvements to people’s lives.
In fact, that’s already what we do see. It is occurring practically everywhere you look. Brands are adjusting their activities to provide as much value as possible in “the new normal.” It’s clear that things probably won’t go back to how they once were, but that’s okay. Business is adapting. And there are still plenty of opportunities for profitability.
So what examples are out there of private enterprise stepping up to the challenge posed by the current crises? Check them out below.
Improving Data Management for Healthcare
Coronavirus is primarily a public health emergency. And it has taken its toll on health systems across the world, from Wuhan in China to northern Italy to the great city of New York.
One of the problems has been collecting and processing patient data. It takes an eternity to comply with all the data protection regulations. And it isn't easy to share. Thus, hospitals have found it hard to get hold of patient histories, which has had a real impact on the quality of the care they’ve been able to offer.
Fortunately, though, tech firms are stepping into the fray to solve the problem. Burst IQ, for instance, says that it is now possible to use blockchain to control access to patient data and share it securely. The technology works in the same way as bitcoin. But this time, the items on the ledger are pieces of information related to the patient, not money in an account. Patients can control precisely what information doctors see, and when.
Public health experts believe that 80 percent of the world’s population will get COVID-19 at some point in the future. There is no herd immunity. Before 2019, nobody had the correct coronavirus antibodies in their system to stop it from spreading.
Thus, it is essential to control the rate of spread of the infection so that we develop herd immunity and so health systems aren’t overwhelmed.
The trick may be to use apps. We all carry around smartphones all day long with us wherever we go. Now developers are creating apps that show people who they interacted with recently, whether they had COVID-19, and whether they require isolation. Trials are already underway in some European countries. And we could see the scheme rolled out more universally over the coming months in other places.
Face Masks As Marketing Materials
It was only going to be a matter of time before somebody figured out how to turn the humble face mask into a piece of advertising. Now, a collection of companies are doing it – and having surprising success.
You must wear face masks whenever you go out in public in many parts of the world. So you might as well advertise while you’re doing it. Fun face masks are now becoming a real thing. And companies are making it possible to customize them in whatever way you like. It’s almost becoming merch!
Over the past few months, many businesses have shut their doors to customers and close their operations. The lights have remained off in offices and retail units up and down the country. However, not all these businesses are dead. Many are still viable. They’re just biding their time and waiting for demand to return.
Restarting a company, however, isn’t an easy task – far from it. You have to let customers know that you’re once again open for business, even though the last time you communicated with them was to tell them you were shutting.
The solution, according to innovative marketing agencies, is “bounce-back” marketing. The idea here is to provide close firms with all the tools and information they need to get back on their feet. Mostly, this involves training in-house marketing teams, either using free booklets or via webinars.
Food Security Innovation
Lack of food security is something that affects a large number of people throughout the country. Food banks have become an essential feature of most cities. But they’re incredibly important during the present crisis when so many people are out of work.
Now companies are seeking to improve food security independently of charitable efforts. For instance, Ocean House is a Rhode Island restaurant that serves up award-winning food to local patrons. During the crisis, however, it discovered that some local school children weren’t receiving adequate meals.
Instead of doing nothing, it packed up its food truck and started offering kids out of school soups, fruits, and sandwiches. All of its food was highly nutritious – just what the kids needed.
Better Janitorial Services For Educational Establishments
We must find some way collectively to get schools back open, even as the risk of infection remains high. A lot of students have lost the better part of a year. And it could ultimately have an impact on their capacity to learn and develop as people in the future.
Now a group of janitorial companies, including one called SSC Services for Education, are looking at ways to reduce transmission risk, putting concerns at ease.
Interestingly, they’re innovating massively in the type of services that they are offering. For instance, we see the rise of electrostatic cleaning where cleaners use the power of static electricity to coat surfaces thoroughly in disinfectant.
Interestingly, this type of equipment wasn’t particularly widespread in the past. It didn’t really matter whether cleaners killed all viruses. Most were benign. Now, though, the situation has changed, making a big difference in how cleaners are cleaning.
The long-term effects of these new approaches could be interesting. We could see community transmission of less deadly, but annoying, viruses, like the flu, go down. We’ve already seen how social distancing blunted the curve of regular colds and respiratory conditions. Now, this could become long-term, and proper cleaning measures take effect.
Switching To Hand Sanitizer Production
In regular times, the world’s distilleries produce alcohol for beverage production. A tiny fraction of total capacity goes into making things like hand sanitizer.
Today, though, things are different. The demand for sanitizer is enormous and global. And companies have the tools and capacity to ramp up production and make a real difference to worldwide inventory.
In March, we saw temporary shortages of hand sanitizer. But drinks companies all over the world quickly stepped up to the plate, churning out new hand sanitizer products in an incredibly short space of time. In the last few months, they’ve continued to improve their offerings, and prices have come down substantially.
Improving The Ability To Work From Home
COVID-19 means that upwards of 40 percent of people may now have to work from home long-term. At least for the next couple of years, the traditional office will become a thing of the past. Firms aren’t willing to put their people at risk. They depend on them to make a profit.
However, the ability to work from home is improving all the time, thanks mainly to changes in the software industry.Examples of progress in this area abound, so we won’t have space to discuss all of them here.
O ne place we’ve seen improvement is in workflow dashboards that work over the cloud. When people are physically distant from each other, it is often hard for them to know what everyone else is doing and projects' status. Now, though, there are tools that allow managers and colleagues to keep track of everyone else’s progress and react to it in real-time, instead of sending emails continually.
Another place we see progress is in the realm of service management. Employees don’t want to have to manage their own IT when working from home. They’d much prefer to install a client on their machines and farm the task off to somebody else. Now that’s a possibility, thanks to services that monitor connections and regulate permissions. The average worker doesn’t even have to think about their current IT situation.
Apps are also changing to accommodate changes in the working environment. For instance, the communications app Slack has fleshed out its feature set since the start of the crisis to make it more usable for those working remotely.
Therefore, private enterprise can help counteract the damage done by the coronavirus and speed the transition to a new type of economy. It is solving problems all over the place, many of which would have been intractable just ten years ago.