Zoom. Just two months ago, I had never heard of it. But that, of course, was before the full, devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic had become apparent. Now, however, Zoom is seemingly everywhere.
“Zoom” is arguably the single word that encapsulates these unsettling times. It is a noun that, like many other successful trade names, has also morphed into a verb: just as we Hoover or Google, so now we Zoom – and with increasing frequency.
Zoom, of course, is the computer app that enables us to hold face-to-face meetings with others many miles, or even continents, away. I can sit at home in Rhos on Sea and conduct discussions with colleagues at Westminster. Every morning, I have a Zoom team meeting with members of my Parliamentary staff working from their homes in Sussex, Kent, London, Denbigh and Colwyn Bay. I even participate in sessions of the House of Commons and question Select Committee witnesses, all on Zoom.
Without Zoom, and similar apps such as Microsoft Teams, I don’t know how I could have continued my work during the coronavirus lockdown. Politics is about communication, often with large groups of people. For such purposes, the telephone is pretty inadequate.
It is remarkable how quickly people have taken to conferencing apps, and the lockdown has proved the spur for a wide range of new uses. Families get together for weekend chats; grandparents see and speak to their distant grandchildren; virtual pub quizzes relieve the loneliness. My own church – St Paul’s, Colwyn Bay – holds well-attended virtual Sunday services.
Zoom, right now, is something of a godsend. But its usefulness will not end when Covid-19 passes, as it surely will. People now realise that meetings need not necessarily be conducted in person. Why spend stressful hours sitting in traffic jams, contributing to pollution and climate change, when you can communicate just as effectively from your home?
Indeed, I suspect that in years to come, when we reflect on this strange period in our history, the shift to remote working may be recognised as one of its few and unexpected blessings.