May 24, 2020 6 min read
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As the coronavirus pandemic progresses, it seems as if there’s nothing but bad news every hour — more cases, more tragedies and more restrictions. Though the virus has caused immense suffering and challenges since the beginning of the year, there have been some surprising and unanticipated silver linings, proving that nothing is absolute, and that positive things can come out of even the worst tragedies.
Decrease in pollution
Unprecedentedly large-scale quarantines, a reduction in industrial production and dramatically decreased amounts of motor vehicle traffic — all of these factors are contributing to better air and water quality.
Large cities are the biggest culprits when it comes to emissions of air pollutants. As an indirect result of COVID-19 safety measures, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have dramatically decreased the world over. In Bergamo, Italy, for instance, the average concentration of NO2 during one week in March was 47 percent lower than for the same week in 2019. In Barcelona, the decrease reached 55 percent. Europe is not the only area to benefit from cleaner air — the same phenomenon has been observed in China and the U.S., among other countries.
Naturally, this improvement in air and water quality isn’t going to last, because pollution levels will climb back up once the restrictions to industrial production and free movement are lifted. They might even exceed their pre-coronavirus levels, as it’s expected many countries will ramp up production to make up for the downtime. However, this temporary decrease in pollution serves as proof that as a global society, we can make a striking difference. Anyone who’s ever been to Venice will be amazed at the images of completely clear canals, for example. These and other images show us what our cities and nature areas would look like if a conscious, sustained, large-scale effort was made to protect the environment. Hopefully, they’ll serve as an awareness-raising tool at the very least.
A boost for tech business niches
We’ve already seen that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as well as blockchain-based businesses in general, are poised to generate increased income as an indirect consequence of COVID-19. As a remote method of payment and a more or less inflation-resistant alternative to fiat currencies, Bitcoin is already gathering increased interest from individual users and investors alike.
While many industries have suffered as a result of the lockdown, the fact that millions of people are confined to their homes and forced to turn to digital solutions has opened up new opportunities for businesses in certain tech niches.
SaaS companies providing videoconferencing solutions, for instance, are seeing massively increased traffic. Many have taken this opportunity to provide their services for free or at a discount for a limited amount of time. Once businesses and individual users have adopted a particular solution, though, at least a portion of them are likely to keep using it once their working methods return to normal, increasing the number of potential clients for the provider.
By way of less direct consequences, it’s expected that the increased need for reliable and fast remote interactions has the potential to accelerate the adoption of 5G connectivity, as well as VR technologies for enterprises (for instance, for remote training purposes).
The use of so-called smart city solutions has also increased, including, for example, the implementation of drones and purpose-designed apps in police work. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to test the effectiveness of these tech-based methods — and potentially accelerate the adoption of more digital solutions in the future.
Increased acceptance rates into higher education
There is a fair amount of anxiety surrounding the issue of how COVID-19 will affect the admissions process in both UK and U.S. universities. So far, however, the message from higher education institutions is clear: no disruption is expected.
As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that it may be easier to get into many colleges in the U.S., and the admissions processes in the UK may become more flexible in light of the pandemic.
In the U.S., many colleges will be sending out acceptance letters to an increased number of prospective students as part of an effort to ensure a sufficient yield. Uncertainty is not just the domain of hopeful students — most universities and colleges also can’t be sure they’ll secure enough students to fill all the slots. Overcompensating by accepting a larger number of students is the logical solution.
This more flexible approach likely won’t extend to top-of-the-range institutions, such as Ivy League colleges in the U.S., because these schools have virtually endless waiting lists as it is.
Another aspect of the pandemic’s influence on education is the more widespread use of online e-learning platforms in light of school closures in most countries. This provides increased awareness among students of the tools available to them online, perhaps making them more likely to eventually consider an online degree.
Exposure of flaws in economic and healthcare systems
This is something of a silver lining in disguise. It’s extremely unfortunate that it had to come to light in this way, but most countries have proven themselves woefully unprepared to handle a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus emergency has tested all aspects of public services, from police force and healthcare to educational institutions and economic readiness, in a way that no simulation or theoretical model could have done.
Hopefully, authorities on both local and national levels will draw the right conclusions from their handling of this crisis and implement appropriate solutions and changes to make sure all systems run efficiently in the future. The flaws have been identified, and they vary from country to country, which means that those in charge can clearly see what aspects are in need of improvement. With any luck, this will ensure that should another crisis befall our planet, we’ll be better prepared.