March 13, 2020 – As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, people are focused on stopping the spread of germs through largescale quarantines and everyday best practices such as hand washing. But limiting the spread of infectious diseases might also require a rethinking of the tech we use — and touch — every day.
Thomas Jungbauer, professor of strategy and business economics at the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University, studies tech firms, entrepreneurship and the economy. He says smartphones can be a serious contributor to the spread of germs, undermining even handwashing, and that the threat of infectious disease outbreaks may force us to rethink our relationship technology — opening up a new landscape for tech innovation.
“People are constantly informed that not touching one’s face and washing hands are two of the most important things to do during this outbreak. Heavy cell phone use is undermining both.
“People are outside, interacting with others, possibly getting the virus on their hands. Then they touch their phone over and over. At some point they come home or to their office, and prudently wash their hands. But they typically do not wash their phones which they then press multiple times a day against their face close to mouth, eyes and ears.
“Mobile phones may seriously contribute to the spread of germs. This ultimately could force us to rethink our relationship with technology and open the door for new tech innovations and business ventures that better balance our need for connectivity, with our vulnerability to emerging pandemics.”