Digital Communications in the Time of Coronavirus

With social distancing measures in place to battle Covid-19, the world faces new challenges when trying to stay connected digitally. Increased use of social media, messaging apps, video conferencing programs, online entertainment, digital media or news, and internet resources is evident. People rely, more than ever, on digital platforms to shop for groceries and anything beyond daily necessities. Important and daunting questions remain as the world tries to grasp new realities in digital endeavors: Is the digital inequalities or gap widening or reducing? Are digital communications fair and trustworthy? What regulations or cautions should be raised for the digital world to function better or carry us forward?

Examining the scenarios in the U.S. alone, one can easily discern that a digital divide existed before Covid-19 hit. Pew Research shows that 25% of the U.S. population does not have broadband Internet access at home, and almost 20% does not use a smartphone. Other than the economic disparity, digital literacy issues can also be identified between people who use little messaging, voice, and videoconferencing, and those who are technology savvy.

The ubiquity of digital socialization and communications calls for thorough research on regulatory aspects of digital media use, including their ramifications for politics, journalism, public services, entertainment, gaming, e-commerce, education, healthcare, science or medical communication, and other areas. We have witnessed how detrimental it is to undergo an “infodemic” that misinforms the public, causes confusion, harm aspects of human life, and undermines credibility of our democratic systems. We need to educate the public about what sources of digital information to trust or avoid, how to evaluate claims and opinions, and how to stay critical and think from well-rounded and healthy perspectives to understand what is happening around the world. We must raise awareness about digital literacy through policies and mechanisms that come from not only the governments, but digital corporations and technology companies. Collaboration and coordination can create a digital world that portrays life from objective standpoints and delivers possibilities in a fair, just, and efficient fashion.



就美国的情况看来,新型冠状病毒爆发之前就存在的数字鸿沟实历历在目。根据PEW研究中心的调查显示,25% 的美国人口在家中并不具备高速互联网接入的设备,近 20% 的美国人不使用智能手机。除了经济差异之外,美国人也呈现使用信息、语音和视频会议之上的差别。换句话说,并非人人皆精通技术而具数字素养,信息的传播和联接因而也出现不均状况。