The outbreak of the COVID19 coronavirus has generated an unprecedented global crisis that, beyond the critical impact on human health we are facing, is changing societies, economies, businesses and the history of human being as we know it.
We are currently in a “state of war” against the virus, as described by Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, in his speech to the nation. And as Matteo Renzi suggested in his interview in El País, we are anticipating a debate on Western society and international governance. Finally, we are experiencing a turning point in the digital, economic and social transition.
This crisis is going to change not only how we socialize, learn (e.g. online schooling), visit the doctor (online/phone/video) or entertain ourselves, but also how we buy, travel or work. Who could have foreseen this? However, here we are all experiencing it and seeking to build our new balanced way of life.
In the business world we are already beginning to perceive the changes in the production system, the consumption dynamics, the supply chains. Companies have no choice but to adapt and go digital at this time. If it was critical before, now it is vital in the immediate future for their survival.
We are facing an accelerated digital transition of the economy where communication infrastructures are essential. Connectivity is a critical part of the solution for this transition and enables businesses and public administrations to continue providing services and products to citizens.
Staying connected to family, friends, school or university, work and leisure has never been more important. We are learning to value new diverse technological options, or even experiencing new applications for monitoring coronavirus patients or online care, following the footsteps of South Korea.
The duration and scope of this pandemia is still unknown and could be relatively long, with possible successive periods of containment/mitigation measures, as suggested by the Imperial College study, which has served as the basis for the United Kingdom strategy. Individuals and businesses need to gain resilience, capacity and speed of adaptation to cope with this new situation. And what is learned will remain:
- Telecommunications are going to be the heart of the infrastructure that society has to equip itself with, in order to manage this type of crisis. To do this, it will be essential to have a robust network and reliable service every day, as well as the adoption of timely measures from the outset, as José María Álvarez-Pallete, executive chairman of Telefónica S.A., pointed out.
- The “all at a distance” will be the norm. And we will probably travel less for professional reasons, work more remotely consequently restructuring offices, and increase on-line shopping. As an example, Zoom Video, a videoconferencing company, has almost doubled its stock market value in the last 3 months.
- Centralized systems will be complemented by others that are physically more decentralized, and “self-sufficient”, whether in work (home office), energy production, food production and distribution, medicine or the ability to not move beyond our nearby residential core (which may be rural) and yet be connected to any location.
- For the most digitalized companies, a key challenge is that their platforms, operations and logistics can be adapted to operate under extreme circumstances. With 60-90% of staff working from home, flexible schedules, increased orders, and more network load, companies are trying at all costs not to compromise the quality of the customer experience and to accommodate the new demand. As an example, Amazon foresees massive new hiring to cope with the increase in online commerce demand and new logistical needs.
- The so-called medical vertical will be transformed involving citizens, companies and administrations; thanks to telemedicine and remote management systems, preventive monitoring and control of epidemics, rapid expansion of medical care and laboratory capacity…
- Education is already changing at an accelerated pace. Teachers and students are adapting and embracing new digital tools and teaching modes resulting in improved acquisition of digital skills and “soft skills” (ability to work autonomously, problem solving, remote teamwork, resilience…)
- We will see new trends in international scientific collaboration, in the promotion of open developments and new forms of manufacturing, in the modification of supply chains (e.g. 3D printing), increased electronic payment, growing access to social networks, new forms of entertainment, increased interest in advanced medicine, changes in work and types of workers (e.g. “gig economy”) or a reduction of pollution in large cities due to the redefinition of transport.
In these difficult times, we have to keep our distance (#IStayAtHome), take an interest in our family and neighbours, and wash our hands. We have to collaborate in the best possible way to limit the impact of this health crisis, with our work and our solidarity.
But one more step awaits us: to know how to take advantage of the time and opportunity to learn to do things differently and to transform and also to change ourselves, to adapt to the new world that is coming as citizens, as workers, as entrepreneurs, as public administrations and in short as society.