The pandemic is over.
I know there's a non-zero probability I've just turned myself into a meme with this (very rushed) statement, but since the very beginning, I was convinced this mayhem could end only in one of four ways:
- near-zero-latency, easily accessible, cheap tests (this way, we would be able to isolate & contain the disease, so it would go extinct)
- an effective cure that reduces the mortality of the disease
- an effective vaccine that reduces the infection rate of the disease
- none of the above is possible (as confirmed scientifically), so we just live with the shit and adapt as well as we can
It seems that option no 3 is an undisputed winner (btw. my bet was option number 1, but well - one isn't always right). We're all getting vaccinated. Some countries manage to do it faster, some take much more time, but it's happening - nothing should be able to stop it.
So we're done?
Of course, it's not the end of the drama.
The vaccination passports will probably happen (because governments of countries who have invested a lot in vaccinations won't like their effort wasted by migrations from countries who can't afford that), free-rider libertarians will protest and express their dismay (mildly), etc. But even if the virus mutates and we get a new tier of vaccinations each season, the global society will rather riot than let the restrictions come back. It would take a much higher mortality rate (SARS or MERS level) to cause enough fear to make people obedient next time.
So let's assume the pandemic is (sort of) over. It was a threat, it was a tragedy (for many), but it was also a unique opportunity. To challenge the status quo, fill the unexpected cracks and gaps, re-invent the fossilized industries and overturn their undisputed (but satiated, static and unprepared for conditions forced by the virus) moguls.
We all know who has "won the pandemic" (turned it into an advantage): mainly large online retailers (more permanent effect) and food delivery companies (short-term effect). Their cases aren't really interesting, they didn't even have to try hard ... Their models are pretty much in-place 1:1 replacements of traditional, "physical" models. Hardly any innovation involved.
Riding the Black Swan
But the pandemic has opened a unique window of opportunity across many different markets. Some well-established industries (education, entertainment, events, parcel delivery, ...) got completely paralyzed - companies couldn't offer their traditional services, leaving a huge, gaping hole that has nearly screamed for some sort of pandemic-resistant substitution. In such conditions even small, but smart and daring challenger can turn the status quo upside down with a single, but well-aimed blow.
So what bothers me much more is who SHOULD have used this opportunity but has wasted it shamelessly. For whatever reason: underestimating the length of the crisis, lack of imagination, significant risk aversion. Who had the winning lottery ticket in their grasp and has just flushed it in a toilet?
You can find my picks below. Let me know (in the comments below) whether you agree, or maybe you have some better ones on your mind?
- one-to-one/one-to-few (small group) education (e.g., language classes) - remote education with max. interaction (audio, video, whiteboard, interactive boards with movable elements like flashcards) for isolated people, regardless of their location
- streaming of live content delivery for artistic events (pay per view) - a way for artists to reach their dedicated fan audience with unique concerts/performances (and various social interactions between gig participants)
- food delivery platform for restaurants (with their own delivery service, performed by waiters/owners) - a restaurant doesn't have to rely on platform's couriers, its personnel keeps their job, the business can carry on on their own
- subscription-based, scheduled food delivery (catering) from restaurants (one or joint) - more predictable & stable income for restaurant owners, people in isolation (or just working from home) could be interested in other meals than just lunch
- proximity-based, neighborhood social networks - e.g., people doing shopping (or other forms of mutual help) for the ones on quarantine; maybe even some forms of recreation for people stuck at home, like "virtual board games" (approachable for casuals, knowing that you play against your neighbors would limit toxic behaviors)
- universal scheduling/occupancy apps (for publicly accessible areas) - e.g., for places with headcount per square meter limitation - detect you via phone "check-in" (obligatory), publish occupancy online (so you can assess the situation), and may allow only people who've "booked" their visit
- AR/VR apps for fitting goods you buy for their looks (like furniture, accessories or clothes) - e.g., to test whether that round sofa would fit your salon or if the purple, triangular hat doesn't make your head appear too big :)
P.S. Honorable mention gets to national postal services in Poland - Poczta Polska. While professional couriers services or parcel locker companies have quickly grabbed the obvious opportunity, Poczta Polska apparently hasn't recognized it at all. I bet they will report an overall financial loss for the whole pandemic period :P And their lousy services still suck equally much as they did in 2019.
P.S.S. It may sound a bit ruthless, but ... the pandemic (closing the borders, isolation) was also a nice opportunity to shape a reasonable approach to illegal economic migration from Africa and Near East. Tighten the borders, regulate the controls, at least build a plan. Maybe I'm not aware of something, but I haven't heard about any activity on that topic.
P.S.S.S. I'm aware of the hindsight bias, yes, I know it's easy to "predict the future that has already happened" :)