A few days ago I was reading an interview with Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the trilogy Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 lessons for the 21st century, in which he said “the best defense humans have against pathogens is not isolation — it is information.”
Harari’s statement is not a call for people to ignore social distancing policies, which are the most effective measure for containing the spread of COVID-19, but a call to that vital dimension of collaboration and solidarity amongst each and every one of us —administrations, economic actors and citizens— to face this global crisis.
It means access to information from authorised, cross-checked and reliable sources to avoid us falling into a spiral of anguish or despair that can block us. It means information to feed the collaborative networks of scientific communities around the world, and to speed up the search for the most appropriate treatments and, when the time comes —as it will come— also for the vaccine.
The information that takes us out of isolation and keeps us active resides fundamentally in the full availability and functionality of a series of telecommunications networks —for broadcasting, voice and data— that make up the central nervous system of an interconnected world.
The coronavirus pandemic itself is proof of our interdependence as integrated societies and economies. And this interdependence also underlies to a large extent the reason for some of the weaknesses of our system, such as global supply networks.
These weeks of lockdown have changed us, and will continue to do so. We are becoming familiar with distance working, which we are incorporating into our lives as something ordinary. We are quickly learning to keep in touch and, paradoxically, to intensify our social interaction through the multiple channels and applications that allow us to communicate, relate, work together and create new collaborative environments.
Can we imagine for a moment what this crisis would have been like without the connectivity factor? Could we live without access to the technologies that allow us to keep in close contact with the people around us and, despite the exceptional circumstances, to maintain a certain amount of activity and dynamism of the entire economic and social system?
The great difference and the great opportunity of this economic and public health crisis in relation to other historical episodes such as SARS, HIV or, especially “Spanish flu” at the beginning of the 20th century, lies in our possibility to stay connected, to continue collaborating and co-creating, keeping us informed and accompanied. They are the recipes for recovery.
CEO of Cellnex Telecom