Why Coronavirus should shake up our industry for good

It’s late on a Monday night and I’m typing up an article. That’s nothing new: as a member of a progressive, supportive and distributed team, I’m used to the freedom to work offbeat hours. As a largely remote worker, I’m used to the isolation that’s part and parcel of the modern workplace too. As a strong introvert, I cherish it. But normally, I’d be heading for the office in Sofia about now. It’s always good to check in with your fellow humans and workmates every couple of weeks, after all.

But I’m going to stay away for another week, because we put in place a precautionary buffer zone around those who’ve travelled overseas recently, and that includes me. No big deal. A good idea, given the hype around Coronavirus, right? 

Right. See, because our work here at Despark depends on healthy people doing what they love and delivering projects that matter. We’re strong and connected, and we don’t want to take risks that might jeopardise anybody’s health or happiness. 


Many of us are working from home, and while some of us are used to that as a default, it throws up a few useful questions that we as a company could do with addressing in greater detail.

See, if you self-isolate, order all your food from online takeaway apps or supermarkets, get all the advice you need from your machine-learning enabled diagnostic tool and keep in touch with your besties via all the normal chat channels, so much the better. It’s like an extended Netflix and chill bonanza. No need to go out, ready made excuses at hand. Your cat is in paradise and you don’t need to change out of your PJs.

But as a person and member of a team whose mission is to create digital products which make a difference, my job is to think beyond our immediate horizons to those whose lives we can barely imagine. 

For a long time, we’ve been chewing over issues like whether creating health apps merely serves the worried well and misses those whose needs are most acute. 

Photo by Nick Demou from PexelsIt’s easy for most of us to switch to a largely digital mode of communication, procurement, admin, finance. All of that. It’s not so easy for those who are elderly or marginalised by lack of access to or understanding of the internet. It’s not so easy for those who are young carers of their parents. It’s not so easy for anyone who depends on day to day, in-person contact to survive.

So, perhaps this is a good time to reflect, as an industry, how we who make apps, we who are at the cutting edge of the future of digital health consider those whose needs are more complex than that of the average user. Our default is to concern ourselves with the self-care of our users. Perhaps, ironically, given the source of the current pandemic, we should take inspiration from Eastern teachings on community and compassion, and build into our platforms tools to enable us as individuals to take greater care of those vulnerable members of our community who need our support. Those people who fly under the radar of the typical user profile.

How do we do that? We’re not sure yet. Perhaps you have some ideas: if so, talk to us. We want to open up the channels of communication to hear all your voices. We want to hear from those who are isolated and underserved by the new frontiers of digital health, or their representatives. As an industry, we need to find new ways to drive not just the modern phenomenon of self-care, but of a sense of communal responsibility to look out for those around us, no matter how challenging or unprofitable their needs may be.


Article by Jo Bradshaw, with thanks to Jo Bottell