Technology in the time of COVID-19


Drawing on recent experiences with the NHS, editor Philip Mason provides an illustration of the immense value of effectively-deployed digital communications in moments of crisis.

The last few weeks have been difficult for me due to a member of my close family being in hospital with a serious illness.
As hard as this time has been however, one positive has been the care which he received from the doctors and nurses at the NHS hospital where he was being treated. From what I can gather - although we weren’t able to physically access the ward - they were understanding, hugely attentive, and above all compassionate throughout the time he was there. 
One major difficulty surrounding the aforementioned illness was our inability to visit the hospital, due to current circumstances around Coronavirus. At a different historical moment, this would have been - and let’s not kid ourselves, still was - a considerable source of additional anguish. 
That distress was somewhat eased however through the use of communications technology in the form of an iPad on the ward, something which enabled my relative to at least see and talk to us during his moments of greatest need. This was an opportunity that I was infinitely grateful for at the time, and for which I’ll continue to be grateful for as long as I’m around.
Which brings me to the, frankly incredibly simple, purpose of this blog, which is to re-state the huge potential of modern communications technology to help mitigate crisis situations. This includes – clearly – the likes of Airwave, mission-critical broadband, and so on, but also consumer-orientated solutions as described above.
In the first instance this is intended purely as encouragement, not just to those operating on the frontline, but also the manufacturers bringing the technology through in the first place. The work carried out by everyone within this sector is of immense value, something which it would be by no means a bad thing to acknowledge a bit more often.
At the same time however it’s also worth stressing that, for the technology to be effective, it also needs to be efficiently developed, procured, deployed and managed. The whole sector is by now acutely aware, for instance, of the difficulties resulting from ESMCP’s initial failure to work with standardised technology. People will also likely be familiar with the current discussions around ‘centralised’ and ‘decentralised’ models in relation to the government’s burgeoning Coronavirus contact tracing app. 
Another illustration of the second reason for writing this blog is likewise contained in the details of my opening story, albeit admittedly only in a small way. Given FaceTime’s inability to work with Android after all, how much more complicated would it have been to reach the ward without having my own IOS device within easy reach? And - more to the point - how much more distressing? 
While by no means a magic bullet for society’s ills, the intelligent deployment of communications technology has the potential to put users at a distinct advantage in a variety of circumstances. To me, this is where the sector earns its money – bringing its expertise to bear, both in ‘normal’ circumstances and in a time of COVID.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a short survey in order to get a better idea of public safety users’ needs in the midst of the current pandemic. We invite you to use it to tell us whether you feel safe at work, and if not, how you believe communications technology might be able to help. What solutions are you using at this moment, not just to ease operational burdens, but also feel secure as you go out into the community?
If you wish to take the - completely anonymous - survey, please click here. Results will be subsequently collated and reported on the BAPCO 2021 news site.
Media contact

Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216