Damn you, COVID-19.
There are many reasons I can say that, from the loss of more than a million lives to the cancellation of so many little events that provide enjoyment, or the financial cul-de-sac it has placed Jamaica and the wider world in.
But for this particular week’s rant, I say damn you because it is hastening a movement that many people are not ready for.
Online transactions have been a big deal for a long time. Some countries have been doing it, at a very high level, for years.
But Jamaica, like many other developing countries, has a large part of its population that is simply not computer literate, much less proficient enough to handle that change.
And what irks me, even more, is that some of the banking institutions do not give customers enough assistance to make the transition.
A few moons ago, I wrote for the news section of The Gleaner. One story I was told to pursue was to ask market vendors about having to switch to the metric system.
I distinctly recall one of the older ones, who sounded like she was about to cry, asking how were they going to manage, considering some of them couldn’t even read.
And that’s the same problem this coronavirus is presenting right now. Too many people are being told to ‘just do it online’, with little or no actual direction as to how.
What these banks and other institutions do not get is the fact that there is a sizeable portion of the population who don’t even know how to browse the Internet.
There are people who, unless they live with younger people, can’t explain how the Wi-Fi in their home works. So imagine the older people who live alone.
And let’s not forget that there are some people who, though they are of a ‘younger age’, still aren’t very technology savvy.
Ask them what operating system they’re using or what processor they have in their tablets or smartphones, and they look at you like ‘wha dat’?
So telling people to just log on and follow instructions is about as helpful as sending a child to the shop with no idea of how much change they’re supposed to get back.
To make matters worse, connectivity has been an issue. Just ask many students. So it can take a Herculean effort just to log on.
So some people are still more comfortable going to a physical branch to do their business. And you can’t blame them.
Annual general meetings, shareholders’ meetings and all those other gatherings are taking place, but how many people are following? For all they know, the company is crashing.
So banks and other institutions, please, I am begging, make it easier for your customers, especially the older ones. Show them how to log on, don’t just tell them to do it.
Guide them properly in the process. Invite them in, social distance, and show them the steps. For all the money you take from customers in the form of crappy fees, it’s the least you could do. Otherwise, you’re going to have tearful pensioners who can’t access their money because you couldn’t be bothered to help.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.
Link me at firstname.lastname@example.org.