I have been saying this for a while now (even before the COVID-19 pandemic) that technology will lead us down a path of DIY (Do It Yourself), and the arrival of the pandemic confirmed that.
I have two concrete examples of this DIY era I would like to share. I believe they are highly indicative. First was searching for locations where to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In my experience, specifically Walgreens. Initially, Walgreens required that anyone who wanted to get the vaccine there had to sign up for an account with them. Of course this was so that they could send everyone emails about the latest offers or promotions at the stores. But not everyone had the means to do so! Especially the older population, but even those that could not at very least afford a smart phone, let alone a laptop or desktop computer. This resulted in many older people not gaining access to the vaccine (for example, in my Manhattan neighborhood) or knowing where to go to get it in the first place. The Vaccine Finder had issues and often gave results of locations far away from your own, when all you had to do was walk two blocks to get it. Finally, after there were many complaints from older individuals about lack of access to the vaccine at Walgreens, for example, Walgreens finally let people just walk in to sign up for the vaccine.
The second example is travel. Before the pandemic began, I used the Shortline Bus out of Port Authority to go to upstate New York. When the pandemic began, I stopped using it. Then, the other day, I was upstate, but had to go back to the city for a Doctor’s appointment. So I used Shortline for the first time in more than a year and a half. Before I left, I tried calling the station where I was leaving from to find out the schedule, ticket prices, and how things worked now in general. Each time I got a recording that no one was available to take my call because they were busy with other customers. Then I tried calling their 800 number, and the same thing happened. I finally found the schedule online with the latest updates as well as to how to purchase tickets and decided to take a chance. The options available according to the Coach USA website were either to purchase from a ticket agent, or to directly pay cash to the driver.
I arrived 1 1/2 hours early, just to be on the safe side. There were already a handful of people waiting for the bus, which was to depart from the “terminal” at 1pm. The “terminal” where we used to purchase tickets from a ticket agent was locked. I asked two ladies to the left of me if the terminal was permanently closed, and they responded with “Yes”. Then I asked if it was correct that my option now was to purchase a ticket directly from the driver with cash. They responded that I could purchase one with cash, but that there was also an app I could use to purchase tickets with a credit card, and then the driver would scan the bar code associated with my ticket purchase when I entered the bus. I didn’t know if I would be able to set it up before the bus arrived, but I was successful. All I had to do was show the bar code, and then he scanned it, and my ticket purchase was deducted from the app.
Yes, this was a very convenient way of purchasing my bus ticket. I no longer had to deal with lines, and I could purchase the ticket at my convenience. It was especially beneficial when leaving from the city, because I no longer had to walk all the way across the Port Authority building towards 9th avenue to where the Shortline/Coach USA ticket booths were located, and then half to go upstairs by two different escalators, and then walk all the way back towards 8th avenue to my gate. I also did not have to waste time standing on (long) line waiting to buy a ticket.
But all these changes also meant the loss of A LOT of jobs. A lot of jobs now are being eliminated. In my example, the bus drivers had to “learn” new skills and take on new responsibilities they didn’t have previously.
Everyone is in a rush to adapt new technologies to adapt to the changes that were foisted on us because of the pandemic, but we all are not prepared for the effect that those changes will have on our lives.
Everyone has to become more tech savvy and have access to technology. It is a must these days, and not a luxury.
Just as people going to school have had to take science, math, languages, etc., as requirements, technology related courses such as computer basics (including smart phones) should become a required part of the curriculum. And even a certain amount of web development should be required as well, so that people understand not just the how’s but the why’s of what they encounter on the web or in the applications they use.
We are no longer approaching an era of DIY. We are right in the middle of it. Gain new tech skills so that when you have lost your job to technology or anticipate losing it, so that you can take on another one that requires you to use it! And all will if not already all. I just may be one way of getting you there!