COVID-19: SHUT DOWN OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD, RISE OF THE DIGITAL

Skeptics of the digitization of businesses should have had their doubts silenced with the precedence of the pandemic. The digitization of the economy and markets globally was already underway, but recent surveys show that the process has been accelerated by several years.

Executives recognise that besides the cost efficiency that technology provides, the strategic importance of it is also a critical component of the business – especially now due to the new competitive dynamic that persists in business and economic environments.

Companies have reported that their responses to COVID-19 related problems have accelerated the pace at which they were digitizing across their business. The changes they experienced took place 20 to 25 times faster than they would have, had they occurred under normal circumstances. Even with regard to remote working, it progressed 40 times faster than they could’ve expected pre-pandemic. 

The pandemic has undoubtedly caused surmountable changes to demand patterns of customers, and firms that were able to successfully adjust their digital channels to maintain, or even improve, engagement with customers find themselves competitively advantaged. Telehealth is exemplary in this regard: as the world has gone into isolation and social-distancing, the telemedicine sector has emerged ensuring connectivity and collaboration with respective national health services, clinicians and family members for patients in quarantine. New forms of digital engagement are also redefining other sectors such as education, professional services, and even sports.

So how has technology stepped in to keep society moving during these trying times? The one area where changes have been most evident is with remote working – the transition from full-time to remote has shaken firms markedly, but it has fostered considerable changes in digital collaboration in regards to the tools used and workers’ comfort. Next, there is greater importance being placed on physical-digital integration as physical business locations are closed – a prime example is the offering of curbside pickup and contactless payments for delivering goods. Finally, expanding further on the digitization of telehealth, the rise of a digital healthcare system means that patients are receiving medical advice and diagnosis in the comfort and safety of their own homes; in addition, information-sharing on digital platforms in the absence of a vaccine acts as a huge preventative medicine. 

The virus is reshaping our daily social interactions, and the past few months have signified the growing dependence on digital platforms and technologies in efforts to keep society and the economy afloat. The rapid changes that have prevailed in the last few months demonstrate that what we assumed was swift evolution of technology of the 21st century was rather underestimated, and that there remains a great number of possibilities in the ways that technology can change our daily lives.

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