A SIT-DOWN with EMMA DIEDERIK

A People and Perspectives overview on a topical issue. Of course, the house style of looking into what is happening in the world today and bringing some insight into this still applies, with specialist insights from across a cultural spectrum.

HOW DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVES THE COVID-19 RESPONSE; CONNECTION vs. PRIVACY?

It is not often you find yourself within a group of your colleagues and they so happen to all be from different background to you, especially when it comes the the one Polyglot in the group Emma Diederik. Emma took some time away from, designing digital communications solutions and her International Communications Graduate programme to share with us some of her extensive experience as a student in mainland China.

So, today or more accurately a fortnight ago just when the lines were blurred in the usual East-USA tensions, cracks were only just starting to form in across East Asia where the Covid-19 response started earlier in the year and the rest of the world only just now grappling with infection rates and possible solutions.

An economist article issue for April explains that “China’s economy shows signs of recovery. Bernstein an investment firm notes that many of the swanky metropolitan restaurants there were full by the first weekend in April”.

[Wow, I don’t think I remember what a restaurant looks like]

Emma; For context it is pretty relevant to note that whilst I was living in China, to a degree I was an outsider and there are some nuances to what I experienced compared to someone who is a Chinese citizen. If you look at for example our topic on Digital Technologies whilst obvious technology platforms are locked out; Netflix, Google, I was also exempt from certain social norms.

And many of these social norms revolve around the ways technologies and apps are used; frequently and in every area of life. I mean it is not hard to notice the numerous surveillance cameras at every corner when you are in mainland China.

[I guess, we’re talking more deeply than just Instagram]

Emma; Speaking of apps much like with us all and our online lives now, China’s citizens have long been adapting their lives around their online presence. It determines all, travel, shopping, leisure and even social security. Picture this, whilst we might have the equivalent of 15+ apps on our phones that we choose to use at will, in China, the use is much more consistent in keeping with everyday life within a centralised framework, so 1+ apps that essentially do everything including pay bills.

[I’m getting a huge deja vu feeling with the countless hours we spend on teams, with video call, presentations, calendars, assignment submission all rolled into one!]

Emma; As you can imagine not to sound scary, but this offers the ability to GPS locate individuals within the confines of one app, determing from one’s food app, and purchase history, and even transportation or any other like payment system where people are or where they are going.

[I can imagine this makes for very convenient health checks, in this case with the crisis]

Emma; Another nuance though, would be the differences within the national infrastructure and specific local areas. Most of public live in urban areas per region but rural china still covers large areas, and as you can imagine usage and so tracking happen on a less concentrated large scale in those areas. And whilst effective tracing in an urban area is possible, it might not be so helpful in a more rural area.

[So I guess one complexity even with technology is not everyone can necessaily be linked in]

Emma: However when you consider somewhere closer to home like the Netherlands, it isn’t different lifestyles rural vs. urban that separates people in their uses of technology it is more “individual” differences like “privacy law concerns” or in the Covid-19 response, it is the communications by governments where there is more choice.

For example in the Netherlands, whilst the country is no longer adopting the Herd Immunity pathway, and many restrictions exist to our everyday lives, communications are about putting into effect safety processes around everyday life; safe living, safe travel, with face-masks and social distancing.

[Things are much stricter in the UK but we do have the occasional government body text with COVID-19 updates]

Emma: As you can imagine, that would be something easily achievable when for Chinese mainland residents Baidu their primary search engine is state monitored. It means you can inform, and offer communications via a digital platform for all of your public no questions asked.

In the UK, or Netherlands things might be more complex than that.

[We’re especially grateful to Emma for taking to join us, and have a feeling she will be eventually making Leeds one of her many homes around the world!]