Communities all over the world are being encouraged to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, what we have been seeing — aside from the hoarders, price gougers, and “it can’t happen to me-ers” — is that this pandemic has been encouraging our society to band together in even the smallest of ways, in attempts to help support each other while maintaining the quarantines and social distancing. Being forced to stay physically away from each other has been making people want to band together and support each other, even if they can only do so digitally.
Musicians are now offering live-streamed concerts to make up for their entire tours being canceled; small businesses are helping support each other and working together; teachers are offering online classes to help parents who are now facing the entire school year being canceled; even tech giants who usually compete are working together to help researchers study the coronavirus. We are living in unprecedented times, and we are seeing people coming together as a community on a much larger scale than we have in the past.
The advertising industry has been making great strides in trying to adapt to this new world of social distancing, with some companies removing ads that may have been amusing a month ago, but now make us cringe. A good example of this is a KFC ad that focuses on people licking their fingers after eating their fried chicken and licking the fingers of other people. While it fits their “Finger-Lickin’ Good” slogan, it is not something that is well-received during this pandemic.
Digital advertising is also taking strides to help band together. When you create an ad on Facebook, you can select specific objectives you want for your ad, including things like brand awareness, increased traffic or engagement, and store traffic. To encourage social distancing the social media giant has disabled the store traffic objective on all of their ads; they paused ads that were running when they implemented this. They have also added options for businesses to announce temporary changes to their service, to inform their customers that they are closed, running things virtually, or are allowing deliver or pickup options instead of allowing customers in.
Since there are researchers all over the world trying to conduct studies on COVID-19, and this is a problem that needs a solution quickly, researchers are collaborating with their competitors to help find a treatment for the virus. A group of organizations launched the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, called CORD-19 for short, to help researchers share information freely.
“Georgetown University, the National Institutes of Health, Microsoft and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative all worked to compile and map them. Then, the non-profit Allen Institute for AI converted them from websites and PDFs into a handy machine-readable format. Now, Google subsidiary Kaggle is hosting a CORD-19 challenge, encouraging data scientists and machine-learning researchers to surface answers to crucial questions about the coronavirus and related pathogens.”
The European Commission in Belgium put out a call for startups and businesses that are small or medium to help combat the virus, with a budget of €164 million in grants to help them achieve this.
MIT added pandemic initiatives to its Solve 2020 Global Challenge, to help enhance disease surveillance systems, provide tools to protect those in healthcare, and develop rapid diagnostics.
In March, a group of tech giants banded together to fight fraud and misinformation about the coronavirus, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit.
Both online and offline, the global community has begun to band together like never before as we try to research the coronavirus, and simply support each other as we are all stuck at home while businesses remain closed. This could be the start of a better sense of community on a global scale, a catalyst to make people realize that we are not so different after all.