Transformation in Trouble Times
3rd June 2020
Transformation inevitable for many industries
A new normal or “next normal” has been widely predicted in the aftermath of the once-in-a-generation coronavirus pandemic that has racked up a devastating human toll and disrupted lives across the globe. We reflect on the current and future adaptations required.
Within a few short months, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented, disruptive and often tumultuous changes.
Working from home has been the most obvious for most people and some companies expect the practice to be extended to long after the crisis has abated.
Cloud technology has also contributed to keeping important websites up so citizens can be informed of the latest news. Mobile technology is used for contact tracing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
People Must Adapt
In truth, however, technology is an important but incomplete piece of the puzzle. While it has made life a lot more bearable even as the world faced lockdowns, what has also made a difference is how people have adapted to the disruption.
Usually, when we speak about digital transformation, the question is whether users are able to accept the changes that are necessary.
Whether this is moving to the cloud to scale up a business or making use of biometrics for security, there has to be sufficient buy-in. People must adapt.
And adapted we all have, in one way or another. Yes, there have been protests in some countries against lockdowns and many businesses have been severely disrupted, but it is also amazing to witness the collective effort to use digital tools to fight off the spread of the coronavirus.
Law and order have been maintained, for example, in most cities. People have, by and large, followed instructions and listened to experts and leaders seeking a path out of the crisis.
In Singapore, the “circuit breaker” measures first introduced in April and later extended to early June meant that families have to find new ways to go about their daily activities.
Each day, there are Zoom calls for the kids to keep up with school, while parents log on to their own laptops and phones to continue working. Meals and groceries come from delivery services.
When hackers hijacked a Zoom call used by a Singapore school in April, the authorities worked with the video call company to make security features more easily accessible and turned on by default. Teachers and students adapted and carried on with lessons.
There are many other examples of people working hard to overcome the difficult situation. This, in truth, is the important transformation that is going on during this coronavirus crisis.
Digital Technology at Forefront
Digital technology has been a key enabler for social distancing but it still needed people to buy in to the importance of the transformation.
At NEC, we have seen this in action every day. A number of our innovations are used in essential services across the globe, from the biometric sensors at immigration checkpoints to high-speed mobile communications infrastructure used to connect up public service operators.
Our team continues to support these working manning frontline services who have shown tremendous courage and dedication during this time.
To us, this is a reminder to continue in our customer-centric focus when we develop innovative solutions. As this crisis has shown, the actual users of technology are the ones driving rapid transformation.
In the coming months, many digital technologies will be in the forefront of transformational efforts by businesses, from governments to private companies.
Online Security Paramount
Remote working means that more robust cyber security has to be in place. Products and services built from the ground-up with security in mind will be the norm.
Digital identities will be key as more virtual interactions take place. Singapore, for example, already has the Singpass system that has enabled citizens to not just access government services but also perform safe check-ins physically at locations such as supermarkets or parks.
In future, biometrics could play a bigger role in the way digital identifies are managed across the globe. It enables accuracy, authenticity and contactless ease of use when it comes to, say, contact tracing or accessing e-services.
To be sure, nobody knows exactly how the new world would look like in the next six to nine months, though the learning process we are all going through now will illuminate the path along the way.
One thing that is not in dispute is that social distancing will continue, though to varying degrees. There will be contact tracing, again up to a point where citizens will allow before they worry about their privacy.
The common challenge before everyone now is to reduce the risk of the coronavirus while continuing with life as normally as possible. At the centre of this effort are the ordinary people adapting to changes they have not seen before.
Images by Gerd Altmann, Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay.
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