By: Sierra Oshrin and Jeremy Seow
Storytelling around technology innovation has made a positive impact among COVID-19-inflicted communities, underscoring the need to continue post-pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed how quickly we’re willing to embrace disruptive technology. More than a year and a half since it began, we’ve witnessed how the rapid deployment of new technologies can make a substantial impact on the world around us.
In the Asia-Pacific region, we’ve seen the rapid deployment of innovative technologies that help monitor cases and track outbreaks to altogether slow the spread of COVID-19. In Singapore, more than 90% of the population quickly embraced TraceTogether: a digital system that uses QR code technology to facilitate contract-tracing efforts. In China, residents likewise adopted a cloud robotics systems that facilitated medical services, such as monitoring vitals, distributed food and medicines to patients in need, and disinfected hospitals and residential areas.
Pandemic tech is not universal.
It’s rare to see countries confront the exact same challenge at the exact same time. At this point in the pandemic, it's worth noting solutions that work in one country may not necessarily work in another. Tracing apps and quarantine bracelets would likely have been met with resistance in countries such as the United States, where privacy and protection of personal freedoms are strongly ingrained in the culture. However, in many APAC communities, these technologies have helped build public confidence and allowed many to return to a state of semi-normalcy ahead of broad vaccine deployment.
When such technological tools deployed initially, the stakes were incredibly high. If proven ineffective, the public’s confidence in these technologies would have diminished. Fortunately, the effect was largely quite the opposite. By removing bureaucratic constraints and allowing for speedy adoption of new and disruptive technology, Asian countries quickly gained some measure of control over a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis.
We believe storytelling around the involved technologies was a big part of this process and helped contribute to the public’s acceptance. By emphasizing the technologies’ benefits and successes, it paved the way for more future innovation. In the face of user doubts and hesitancy, positive stories about technology’s role in halting the pandemic enabled more balance in the health-tech narratives.
Pandemic tech has helped build the new normal
Since the invention of the wheel, technology has more effectively bridged distances and brought people together. In the same way, today’s technologies helped keep people connected despite travel restrictions and social distancing measures. And as we saw a disconcerting rise in pandemic-related hate – ranging from anti-maskers to outright xenophobia – technology rose to the occasion to connect communities and dispel discrimination.
Many of the brands we work with found themselves at the forefront of these efforts. TikTok launched new tools to help promote kindness and launched campaigns against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. The TikTok platform also provided aid and partnership to local businesses during this time; the regional launch of TikTok for Business came with initiatives, including $100 million in ad credits for the use of small businesses worldwide.
Business-to-business brands also stepped up their games. ByteDance-owned Lark, a digital collaboration suite, launched at the height of the pandemic and enabled SMEs in the region to rapidly digitalize their operations – for free. Technologically driven travel booking platform Booking.com made strategic use of data and insights to inspire domestic travel and provide direct support to its partners in Southeast Asia.
The power of innovation storytelling
When the world faced an unprecedented darkness, technological solutions kept individuals and businesses running. The stories of such technology success inspired individuals, governments, healthcare workers and businesses to look beyond their immediate challenges, and explore solutions to ease the burdens they faced.
While social media’s unprecedented speed and reach has allowed misinformation to spread, we have also seen how it proliferated messages and stories that influenced behavioral changes for the better. Even grassroots efforts, amplified by news and digital media, have given old-school businesses the nudge they needed to adopt tech solutions to help them stay afloat during the pandemic downturn.
Clearly, technology storytelling should not come to a halt once the pandemic ends. Instead, it should continue its momentum to help drive inspiration for technologies to come. That’s a big reason why we love the communications business: we get to use our love for the craft to inspire others and to drive positive change during difficult times.
Sierra Oshrin is a former broadcast journalist now serving as a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ Singapore office. Sierra has reported in Arizona, Washington, D.C. and Idaho as a multimedia journalist, otherwise known as a “one-man-band.”
Jeremy Seow is the Managing Director of Growth & Innovation in APAC for Allison+Partners