The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in more ways than one. Nationwide lockdowns, Mass Infections, quarantines, campaigns urging people to stay indoors, working from home, canceled travel plans, as well as businesses and economies struggling to stay afloat have factored into a dismal start of the year. Industries that are standing the test of time in a pandemic are healthcare, Sanitation, and On-Demand Hyper-local Services. Let’s learn how Technology will shape the market in post-COVID World
The latter could also be categorized into digital technology. The necessary isolation had us depending on online services for our basic needs, making the true condition of existing digital infrastructure clear and at the same time revealing huge innovative opportunities.
Below are 4 lessons that can be taken from the current scenario and could be harvested to turn crisis into an opportunity in the eventual post-pandemic world.
The COVID-19 situation has revealed a digital gap that is still sharp in many communes and countries. Two major areas where the gap is steepest in particular are:
The efforts to implement emerging technologies against COVID-19 have been extensive especially in Asia, most notably in India, Singapore, China, and South Korea, showing an impressive advancement in A.I, robotics, big data, and automation. In China and Singapore, robots are being used to deliver meals and medication to coronavirus infected patients and to disinfect hospitals and places, to deliver medical supplies, and in South Korea, artificial intelligence is being utilized to accelerate medical diagnosing by processing bulk data.
While Asian countries are deploying digital weapons against COVID, many other countries are facing more grass-root level problems, like shortage of basic medical protective equipment supplies, such face masks, safety gloves, and hazmat suits. In Italy, more than 2,600 medical workers so far have contracted the COVID infection accounting for 8,3% of the country’s total cases which is double the percentage of infections among medical staff in China.
The digital divide has also become apparent in how quick citizens are in adjusting to a remote lifestyle in the “stay-at-home” period and continue to participate in the economic, political, and social aspects of life.
Although according to Eurostat over 85% of European citizens have access to the internet, and rely upon digital infrastructure in virtually every area of life, from shopping, administration, and payments. Studies have revealed that there is still a lot of digital infrastructure improvement required that could allow them to function “as usual”.
In many under-developed countries, insufficient digitisation has become a problem statement for teachers and students who are forced to use online platforms available for the next few weeks or even months. Lack of one standardised and reliable online curriculum, little to no hands on knowledge of digital education tools, poor computer literacy rate among the tutors and insufficient experience in running lessons online make for a truly embarrassing and chaotic experience, both for students and teachers alike.
Of course, some schools, teachers and students will be more prepared to handle this situation than the rest but it is the under-privileged who will bear the consequences of remote education most severely.
This digital divide which has been exposed by an outbreak has signaled a demand for rapid innovation that could prove itself relevant even in a market in Post-COVID World. This situation stands to show that access to digital infrastructure is not just a matter of comfort or greater convenience, but has become a fundamental human need and that access to such basic technologies can have a huge impact in a life and death situation.
As more and more tech platforms are being hastily deployed to fight the pandemic and meet the need of people, there will be some governance issues that will persist. The two governance challenges at the time of pandemic are:
Hurriedly deployed digital tools aimed to aid the situation are another type of headache for policymakers. The main concern is achieving a fine balance between social impact and data privacy. As people are working against the clock to fight this pandemic, it is easier than ever to build technology-driven solutions with an immediate positive impact, but with potentially bad effects on citizens’ privacy for the long term.
Many Media outlets in the USA have reported that the federal government has approached Facebook, Google and other tech giants to obtain larger access to citizens’ Smartphone location data in order to more effectively stop the spread of coronavirus. In Poland and India, the governments have released a Home Quarantine and Diagnosis and Detection App that allows quarantined citizens to check-in and detects any nearby COVID infected person.
The diagnosis is done by proceeding through a series of medical questions that is then correlated with the phone’s geolocation data. The application and has been downloaded by more than 50 million users in India so far.
In times of crisis, Top Tech companies, businesses conglomerates, and Governments are few of those that can swiftly switch to sustainable digital infrastructure and offer their customers, citizens, or employees a seamless digital experience, including cashless payments, online shopping, virtual workplace, online entertainment, etc.
Digital advancement does not spout out of nothing but is a amalgamation of two factors:
The central approach should always focus on strategic shift away from thinking of innovation as an luxury or a threat against conventional systems, and towards making innovation a driving force of future business operations.
Generally companies that have experienced and survived a crisis are more likely to adopt a active approach towards investing in innovative projects. The COVID outbreak could thus push these innovative followers to the front lines, while strugglers would only advance up to being followers.
With many countries invoking a national emergency due to COVID-19 outbreak, companies globally are implementing work-from-home protocols to allow employees to adhere to isolation guidelines. Will the newly acquired home office habits reshape workplace rules in the post-pandemic world?
Distributed workspace approach has proven to be a cost-effective way to conduct business thanks to technologies and tools that can support the remote workflow, efficient communication, real-time collaboration, and data sharing. There are many online tools available that provide a fairly intuitive and seamless online working experience – from document sharing, video calls, chats, planners and time trackers, to more sophisticated tools such as VC applications embedded with by AR and VR technologies.
Also Read: Zoom’s Path to overnight success.
Moreover, remote working models have lead companies to save significant costs. A typical company saves about $11,000 per employee per year, according to Global Workplace Analytics. To utilize this situation into an opportunity, employers will consider remote work not as a perk but an efficient yet cost-effective alternative to on-site work.
Shifting workspace dynamics uncover innovative opportunities in this domain. As digital workplace infrastructure is being put to the test, gaps and insufficiencies are being surfaced out. And remote work paves the way for creative innovations that shift more and more work activities normally shared in the physical space to the digital workspace platform.
Conclusion – Opportune moments in the time of crisis.
COVID-19 has forced us to unlock and leverage the digital technology at our disposal and to innovate the newer solutions as well. But such intense adoption of technologies will also reveal what’s still required to be done advance the quality of digital infrastructure around us. While each government, organization, and business will have their own takeaways, conclusions, and learning from this experience, it is sure that the outbreak will push the innovation not only to optimized services and products but to new solutions altogether.