How a pandemic is utilizing – and changing – technology

What a world we are living in today! COVID-19 has been a devastating healthcare crisis, but it has also been experienced as a shock to the systems of many industries. As schools and workplaces closed across the world to prevent the transmission of this dangerous disease, people turned en masse to the internet to connect, work from home and attend school classes. Many now wonder how all the technologies that have supported this unprecedented endeavor will continue to hold up in the long-run.

woman in her kitchen expressing frustration at her laptop computer

Amy Weiss addressed this issue in a recent article for Workflow. She explores the virus’s impact on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx and several other internet and technology service providers. Her research shows that while some are glitching or experiencing outages, others have held up under the pressure of such a quick increase in usage. Some of the more notable parts of her research concern Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and global internet performances and unemployment systems. 

  • Zoom: Increasing app downloads by 1,200% over a one-month period, the company found itself on the receiving end of some very unfavorable publicity when meetings started being hacked by outsiders – sometimes, affecting school children. The hackings exposed some real shortcomings in Zoom security and invited more in-depth research into the business’s policies and data collection practices. Zoom continues to work on correcting these issues, but the damage is done; many companies have already banned the use of Zoom apps for business.
  • Microsoft Teams: Calls made using Microsoft’s videoconferencing software increased 1,000% in March, due in part to Zoom’s security struggles. Many users – both in business and in education – moved to this Microsoft alternative to gain peace of mind in the overall security of the platform and the Microsoft brand. Microsoft stated that, “despite the significant increase in demand, we have not had any significant service disruptions.”
  • Global Internet Performance: In her article, Weiss points out COVID-19’s impact on global internet performance, which is being monitored by Internet metrics firm Ookla. Ookla’s data has shown a -5% change in fixed broadband speeds in the U.S. since March 2, and a -7% change in Canada. Meanwhile, the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” announced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and signed by more than 700 companies and associations, guarantees Americans will not lose broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of economic hardship.
  • Unemployment Systems: Probably one of the most significant issues we’re seeing are those affecting state-run unemployment benefits systems. Websites are crashing under the weight of unprecedented claims as nearly 17 million sought assistance in a three-week period.
  • IRS “Get My Payment”: Also of note are the technical glitches encountered by Americans signing onto the “Get My Payment” stimulus payment tracking tool. With so many in need of basic necessities at this time of unprecedented unemployment, many support apps and services are experiencing breakdowns and disconnects; and many also report trouble meeting the demands put on their help systems. 

Weiss concludes by observing, “No, technology is not perfect. But, like so many of us given the conditions and the strain of the last month, although it crashes on occasion, it is generally holding up better than we might have feared.”

To read Amy Weiss’s article, click here.