Coronavirus is the first global crisis of a digital age and the divergence in policy responses reflects the challenge of navigating an unprecedented global situation under conditions of enormous uncertainty. We ask what lessons can be learned from this experience and identify two, both of which push against mainstream interpretations of recent events. First, and contrary to the view that the crisis exposed social media and Big Tech as a source of dangerous misinformation that needs to be regulated more strictly, the paper argues that the less mediated spaces of the Internet—social media and Twitter, in particular—played an essential role in triggering a more effective policy response based around social distancing, lockdown, and containment. Second, and contrary to the view that things will go back to normal once the worst of the crisis has passed, the paper argues that, as a direct result of lockdown, the status quo has been shifted across multiple sectors of the economy. Three examples of this shift are introduced, notably the forced experimentation with digital technologies in education and health, the increased use of remote work in many companies, and a reduction in environmentally harmful behavior and decrease in pollution levels. The long-term effects of this ‘reset’ are impossible to predict, but a quick return to the ‘old normal’ seems unlikely. The paper concludes with the suggestion that this reset has created a unique historical opportunity for the reappraisal of regulatory approaches across multiple domains and exposed the need for regulatory models better aligned to a less mediated, more decentralized world. COVID-19 is a global tragedy, but—given that it has happened—it should be used as a learning experience to re-imagine a better, more socially, and environmentally responsible future.
- Higher-tech education
- Policy response