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Technology and 2020: What have we learned?

Roy Harby, Solutions Architect at O2 Business, considers the role that technology has played to help us through the challenges that 2020 has presented.

Recently, I wrote about the role that technology has played in delivering vital NHS services throughout 2020. I used to think that advances in healthcare technology would involve sizeable step changes like robotic surgery, or remote machines providing instant diagnosis. In reality, however, it was the accessible, down to earth developments in technology that have made the most tangible and welcome difference this year – simple things, like booking appointments through an app, or having an online consultation with your GP.

This month, I have been thinking about technology in other sectors, and whether the events of 2020 have inspired us to find other, more efficient ways to perform everyday tasks.


Take local councils, for example. Over several years, there’s been a drive to make increasing numbers of services available online. Nowadays, if you want help from your local council, the likelihood is that your initial enquiry or application would be online.

Nevertheless, there is scope to improve the routine, everyday communications. The way councils typically manage the relationships and partnerships they have with tenants, landlords, maintenance teams and insurers, is a case in point. A tenant with a leaking roof or a temperamental boiler would probably expect to queue or call to log the issue initially. However, unified communications could transform the way the issue is managed:

  1. The issue could be logged through a mobile app, and a call-back requested.
  2. The call-back could be video-based, enabling the tenant to take pictures and demonstrate the nature of the problem.
  3. The call handler could direct the call to the appropriate maintenance team, who will assess the urgency of the problem and book an engineer visit.
  4. All the details and documentation is held centrally, in one location, with all interactions recorded.

You can see how this would reduce the number of visits required, as well as the likelihood of faults re-occurring.

Social Services

We know how difficult this year has proved for the elderly and vulnerable. Many care homes have been able to introduce technology that reunites residents with their families and loved ones, albeit through video calls.

I believe there’s a lot more that unified communications could deliver for social services, such as:

  • Keeping in touch with, and monitoring vulnerable people using technology such as connected cameras and video calling.
  • Contacting vulnerable children for safeguarding, and making face to face appointments when necessary.
  • Establishing a virtual community, bringing lonely people and other vulnerable groups together to talk and make conversations.
  • Providing direct connection to the local police or other support services where required.

Community of Interest

Throughout the country there are thousands of worthy causes, volunteering opportunities and social enterprises providing care, support and help for the people who need it most. And yet, many of them haven’t embraced the idea of digital transformation.

With a digital community of interest, we can expand and take advantage of community support, wherever we are, deploying the mobile technology that we carry in our pockets. Using location-based apps, we can research and locate the services we need based on our actual location. We can bring volunteers and the people who need them together. We can create efficiencies by uniting groups offering a broadly similar service.

How has unified communications transformed the way you live and work? What’s the next step-change you’d like to see happen? I’d love to hear from you. You can connect with me via LinkedIn.

Share your thoughts on how technology can be used to help our most vulnerable people in society using #O2Opinions.


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