JSU economist weighs in on ‘COVID-19 intensifying digital economy’

JSU economist weighs in on ‘COVID-19 intensifying digital economy’
Jackson State University Economics Professor, Dr. Fidelis Ezeala-Harrison says COVID-19 is intensifying our digital economy. (Source: Bernadette Heier)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Who knew 2020 would go down in history as the year that changed everything?

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified America’s first case of COVID-19 in January, and Mississippi health officials reported its first case in March.

Since March, the virus has infected over 100,000 people and killed nearly 4,000 in Mississippi.

Families are grieving without the closure of a proper burial, hospital systems are overwhelmed and schools are struggling to keep up with their chief aim; educating and protecting kids.

At the heart of what’s commonly called our “new normal,” is technology and arguably a new, digital revolution.

Whereas before, communicating, educating and even recreating through digital devices was popular and optional, it’s now the only option in most cases.

Congress passes laws virtually, prescriptions can be delivered to your door and restaurant chains are mapping out plans for a 100% ’touchless’ experience in the future.

And that’s not the half of it.

Jackson State University Economics Professor, Dr. Fidelis Ezeala-Harrison says you should brace yourselves for more.

“People should expect that most service industries, such as the hospitality or transportation industry, to be hard hit in terms of suffering major declines in their businesses. These would translate into massive layoffs and/or furloughs of their workers, resulting in big spikes in unemployment, major income losses, and significant increases in poverty rates. Unfortunately, these outcomes would put most digital equipment (computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones, Androids, etc.) beyond the reach of many people. And the situation is not very pleasant,” Dr. Ezeala-Harrison said.

“Due to the precautionary and preventive measures being taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, both at the individual level and the social level, people should expect our normal pace of movements and mobility to be restricted and reduced drastically. Therefore, many regular activities would now be carried out by digital means,” Ezeala-Harrison added.

So how do we prepare for the unexpected?

“People need to be flexible, calm, patient, and most importantly, be willing to adjust, learn, and follow the daily life applications of the new digital technologies that can help us cope, and minimize the negative impacts of the unexpected advent that is COVID-19,” Ezeala-Harrison said.

That means cities like Jackson, already crime-ridden with a struggling economy and lagging education system could be hit extremely hard. And educators say the city must fight to survive future technology changes due to COVID-19.

“Jackson has to keep up with the necessary investment in education and digital infrastructure required to stay afloat with this developing, digital trend,” Ezeala-Harrison added.

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