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Excerpt: ‘Disrupted Geographies’ in the time of COVID-19

Graphic by King Catoy

With many parts of the world still in varying levels of lockdown due to COVID-19, the roles that digital technologies and the internet play in how we respond and adapt to the pandemic have only heightened.

In an essay for the Network of Centers, EngageMedia executive director Andrew Lowenthal expounds on COVID-19’s impact on shifting geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific, as well as the future of our organisation’s work as a regional space-maker for discussions on video for change, open technology, and digital rights. His essay is part of a series that aims to “explore stories of COVID-19 in real-time” from the perspectives of individuals and groups working in the fields of digital technologies, the internet, and society.

“Geo-politically the tectonic plates are shifting rapidly. Southeast Asia’s position as a theatre of conflict between China and the US is accelerating … Technology is an important part of this theatre of conflict. Countries in the region are compelled to choose their ‘provider’. In choosing Chinese or American artificial intelligence, for example, they also choose sides, and which strategic compromises to make. Soft power will influence their choice.”

Andrew also writes of the future of communities and network building in a post-COVID world:

“People often talk of a post-COVID world. However, there will be no such thing in my view for the next several years at least, in the same way that we are not in the post-tuberculosis or malaria world. Even in the unlikely event that a vaccine is created in 2020, it will take years for it to be rolled out globally.

In the immediate future, there will likely be heavy restrictions on travel to and from many countries, and various travel bubbles will emerge — green and red zones. The physical bridges that have been built between advocates in many countries have been pulled up and won’t return quickly. They will need to be re-created in other ways.”

Read the full essay on Medium.