On the 11th of March 2020, WHO declared COVID19 as a pandemic. The spread of the virus through human-to-human contacts has made social interactions and our everyday activities from meetings, travelling, to even shopping constrained. As advised by the WHO and the Ministry of Health Malaysia, social distancing would be the best action to do by individuals in facing this pandemic.

Digital technologies can be the best tools in making sure social distancing becoming a little less uncomfortable to us. These are my six suggestions on how we can digitally survive social distancing.

Virtual meetings and classrooms

Personally, I am a proponent of face to face meeting. Face to face meeting gave us the extra personal touch and assurance in communication. Although not perfect, most face-to-face meetings can be replaced with the use of video calls or virtual meetups. Nowadays, meetings can easily be done through applications such as the Zoom.us, Cisco Webex, Google Meet, Skype calls, and WhatsApp Video chat. This can easily be extended to education classroom setups and even conferences.

Shop and pay digitally

e-Commerce is something that has been promoted extensively by MDEC in Malaysia. Retailing and purchasing over e-commerce platform should be the first option during these days. Well-known local e-Commerce platforms such as Lazada, Zalora, and Shoppe has been known to survive the great local demands for online purchasing. These virtual malls will keep our shops running and enable shopping without to worry about any physical crowd.

TV home shopping industry could not be left out as TV marketing is still strong in Malaysia. Platforms such as CJ Wow Shop and GO Shop are options to physical shopping where they offer the ‘promoter’ experience, which can usually be seen at the malls.

Paying your bills? With the e-Payment initiatives, you can easily forget the queue and pay most of your bills online.

Gig delivery

There are things which are not easy to be fully digital such as buying groceries and getting the freshly made lunch and dinner.

This can be helped by our recently booming gig economy and delivery services that allow us to get what we want fresh, reduce our contact with the crowds, and keep our social distancing in place. Services such as Happy Fresh, Food Panda, Grab Food and Tesco Delivery are already available in many towns providing freshly made food and groceries delivery service to your doorsteps.

e-Wallet and contactless payments

Even during these times around, there are occasions where you somehow need to be physically at the shops. The nationwide implementation of e-wallets and installations of contactless payments could efficiently help us avoid physical contacts that we can get through coins and paper notes exchanges. These e-wallets’ QR-code-based payment options can easily be used by even the small retailers, while the ‘wave’ payments are basically stable throughout the country.


Instead of going to the cinema, streaming platforms such as Netflix, Astro On the Go and Tonton are already here, providing an unlimited number of movies and dramas from around the globe. While watching YouTube is already common even for the kids nowadays.

Current mobile gaming trends, such as the Call of Duty, should keep you occupied and active virtually. There are also numerous top new independent games which you can try, which are quite fun and addictive to play.

Virtually there

Those who miss being outside either by the beach, on at a foreign historical place or just craving for sightseeings can virtually experience them with the virtual reality technology (VR). Easily we can experience these from the inexpensive cardboard and mobile phone setups such as the Google Cardboard which you can also DIY it, or by using the higher-end VR sets such as the sets from Oculus, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear, and Sony VR. Platforms such as the YouTube VR360 has allowed thousands of Virtual Reality 360 degrees content being uploaded and experienced by others. The technology is still far from perfect, but through it, you can easily transport yourself virtually to other physical and virtual spaces as if you are there physically experiencing their sights and sounds.

Thinking of taking Gondola ride in Venice? Take this Discovery’s 360 Venice Gondola ride: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgV7gRSDKts

Or why not swim with bears?  Here is National Geographic Swim with bears 360 Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkLa7jkFXpU

These digital suggestions are already norms for some of us and indeed could ease our social distancing throughout the pandemic. And these are the new norms.

Farhan Mohamed, UTM (15 March 2020)