Is digital our only solution to keep the wheels of industry turning?

Is digital our only solution to keep the wheels of industry turning?
Published: 13 March 2020

We are living in extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic is setting new challenges for us to face every day. It is increasingly evident that the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus is through ‘social distancing’ (quarantining); authorities and businesses rest on the horns of a dilemma. Do we implement draconian measures limiting person-to-person contact, and face an economic shock? Or do we press on, keeping the wheels of industry turning, and face a potential human cost?

But what if these were not our only options? The use of technology in our lives today has become widespread. Functionality has massively improved, providing a far more intuitive experience than has been possible previously. Many interactions that would have been unthinkable in any other setting than face to face – such as buying a car, booking a holiday and even meeting a partner are now all routinely done digitally. Why not extend this to other aspects of life? Teaching a school class? Meeting your colleagues? Perhaps even getting a new role? Whilst this would clearly require a dramatic shift in mind-set for people, COVID-19 may force the issue of digital progression.

What we do know is that the technology capability exists. Video conferencing capability has moved on dramatically from the early days of those first shaky Skype calls, providing a much clearer and more immersive user experience. Anecdotally it also appears that technology providers are stepping up to the plate to facilitate the shift, given the extraordinary circumstances. Stories abound of video-conferencing firms providing complementary licences, hardware vendors donating kit, and the networks extending capacity. Perhaps this is the tipping point where technology really does become fully prevalent? Maybe the stark choice, between economic downturn and protecting the nation, need not be so stark.

For more information about the Berwick Partners IT & Digital Leadership Practice, please contact Alex Richardson.

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