The global COVID-19 pandemic has clearly changed our world. It has forced everyone to work or study at home to avoid infection. Government agencies are now operating almost exclusively online, schools from grade school up to higher education are conducting classes remotely, cities have turned convention centers and dormitories into hospitals, and lines at food banks extend for blocks. The virus has disrupted or altered nearly every aspect of life.
As we endeavor to keep people safe, help businesses stay open, keep our culture alive, and provide some modicum of comfort in the face of considerable uncertainty, we have had to push technology to new limits. People’s laptops have become their lifeline—the very difference between staying connected and productive or isolated and stagnant. This situation has also exacerbated the gaps in our society—gaps in access to technology, healthcare, education, and economic security.
As countries, communities, and families struggle to recover while also addressing the growing concerns around social injustice, it provides a unique opportunity to reimagine a better world. The current environment has shown the need for governments and all aspects of society to organize and innovate to better adapt and respond to unforeseen pressures. This is a pivotal moment in history—a moment that has significantly accelerated the digital transformation.
Policy Makers on the Path Forward
If the digital transformation was progressing at a slow roll, the pandemic and forced march to remote work and learning has truly stepped on the gas. The upheavals caused by this global situation present policy makers around the world the opportunity to fully embrace digital technologies such as tele-health, tele-work, and remote learning solutions. In doing so, they will also strengthen their resilience and competitive posture over the long term.
Innovative and flexible technology solutions are a critical component of successfully navigating these evolving challenges. Still, it is important to remain mindful of both the opportunities and responsibilities presented. It is essential for society to heed their collective insights and experience in the process of applying emerging technology solutions to help improve lives. The next steps on the path forward are likely to be a delicate balance of rapid engagement and thoughtful change.
Connectivity has become critical, so government leaders have a responsibility to expand the reach of the digital infrastructure. Policy makers should work with the private sector to ensure sufficient data and identity privacy, protection, and cybersecurity. The new paths of communication and on-line work environments have heightened the risks and consequences of cyberattacks.
Government leaders and policy makers seem to recognize this situation has three phases, each of which affords opportunities for progress:
- Respond by adopting immediate relief measures to safeguard the economy and public health
- Recover by developing medium-term measures to activate an economic rebound
- Reimagine by transforming how we work, learn, heal, create, and play
To expedite innovation in both technology and process, policy makers need to foster an environment to create jobs; for the data-driven economy to realize its full potential; and for everyone to have access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.
Learn more of how the digital transformation is aligning with the global environment in the whitepaper “Accelerating Digital Transformation in 2020: A Path Forward for Policymakers.”