COVID-19 pandemic is forcing ‘change’ upon us

May 10, 2020 by

Change has arrived. It is up to us to produce progress.

COVID-19 has changed the world. The reality we once had is now gone. What we make our world is up to all of us to define going forward.

Cash may not be king in a post COVID-19 world. Contactless payment systems rather than paper and coin money should become the new normal. The U.S. is playing catchup with many other regions of world when it comes to making contactless payments. A deadly virus has accelerated our behaviors as a society.

While it is believed that the chance of being infected by cash is still low, there remains a psychological fear of touching money that has passed through multiple people’s hands before it finds its way to you.

People rightfully fear using the old “greenbacks” out of concern that paper and coin currency, touched by unknown people, could be a petri dish for spreading the flu or coronavirus.

America, the innovation capital of the world and the world’s biggest economy, is moving at a snail’s pace for going cashless and we need to catch up.

COVID-19 may be just the stimulus we need to move forward.

In China, you do not see people signing receipts, inserting credit or debit cards, entering PIN numbers on keypads. Contactless payment is ubiquitous.

At a time when it seems that anything involving China is viewed with skepticism and trepidation, America needs to catch up with China in living in a currency-free, technology-driven world.

Today the use of technology by average Chinese citizens — young and old — far surpasses what we see in America. The WeChat app, the brainchild of Tencent, a giant Chinese tech company, is often referred to as a social media app, equivalent to Facebook or WhatsApp. But this grossly undersells the power of WeChat with its more than 1 billion active users.

WeChat is both a lifestyle and social ecosystem with seemingly endless applications. Beyond the typical social media functions of messaging and Twitter-style feeds, it is also used for financial transactions of almost any type. It has virtually replaced cash in most commerce exchanges.

I have even seen beggars in China with a QR code hanging around their necks so that who wish to make a donation can send it via WeChat.

It is the new business card: Business associates and strangers alike share their contact info electronically. To say it went from being unheard of to becoming a nearly universally used, overnight sensation is an understatement. It is truly ubiquitous to the point where vendors look puzzled when you attempt to use RMB (Chinese currency): In fact, there are places that do not accept cash, only electronic payment.

China is not standing still. Transactions have been moved from cash to electronic mobile and even to a new way to pay in China. No card, no phone, just look at the camera and pay by facial recognition. The future has arrived in China.

Change can produce progress. COVID-19 should do more than make us sick or kill us. It might provide just that catalyst needed to improve society and move humanity forward.

Tom Watkins is the former state mental health director and state superintendent of schools.

Source: COVID-19 pandemic is forcing ‘change’ upon us

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