Wed | Mar 3, 2021

Editorial | Expansion of the digital footprint in COVID-19 crisis

Published:Saturday | January 23, 2021 | 12:06 AM

The COVID-19 crisis may have done more for business efficiency than will ever be acknowledged. One of the upsides of this yearlong pandemic is that technology is playing a bigger role in everyone’s life – and all sectors, including business, public sector, health and academia, have had to embrace a digital lifestyle.

On an individual level, some persons who had access to technology tools but did not readily warm to them for a variety of reasons, have accelerated their use of technology as they seek to conduct simple everyday tasks such as paying bills and doing banking.

Because of social-distancing guidelines and fear of community spread, the concept of traditional education is rapidly changing, as it now requires access to a computer or tablet and reliable Internet service at all levels. Even schools in remote locations are waking up to the fact that a classroom is no longer the only learning option.

There is growing evidence, too, that well-managed companies have seen a positive impact on productivity in this COVID-19 era. Of European executives and managers who were recently canvassed, 43 per cent reported that working from home has positively impacted productivity. And in the United States, productivity has gone up by 7.3 per cent, even though hours have been slashed and there have been significant job losses.

The key difference is that companies which were performing efficiently pre-COVID-19 wisely capitalised on new technologies, while those that were slow to adapt to technological changes are now struggling to reduce costs, boost efficiency and overcome resource gaps.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Indeed, this COVID-induced lockdown has created some business opportunities. For example, physical proximity to work is no longer a primary factor for a company in search of talent. Companies can therefore scout for the best talent wherever they reside, without the additional expenses such as relocation fees and procuring work permits or providing accommodation.

Zoom is one of the zones where more and more people have been meeting for discussions. Time spent commuting to get to a specific location is now eliminated. Invariably, online meetings begin on time and their duration is fixed. It means more can be achieved in a shorter time. Meetings, if not efficiently managed, can be the number one time-waster in organisations.

The entertainment sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and many performers have been stripped of the income they would normally earn from live concerts. So, in a bid to monetise their online performances, the industry gave birth to the Versuz battles which saw some of our favourite artistes going head to head, to the delight of worldwide audiences. Will this be the new normal when the pandemic is over? Probably not, because it costs money to set up and deliver a satisfying virtual concert. Besides, a livestream, however good, will not replace live music. But, for now, fans will embrace what is available.

There are many other lessons to be learnt from this pandemic. For example, that funerals can be properly executed in an hour or two and meetings can end after an hour and still accomplish their purpose.

It is being predicted that, even though office contact is vital for team cohesion and interaction, working remotely will become a permanent option for the world’s workforce as the future is redefined by this pandemic.

Besides, many of the practices developed during the pandemic will likely become normal. Companies that are lagging must now see that the digital imperative is urgent and that it is in their best interests to invest in digital technologies, if they want their businesses not merely to survive, but to thrive.