The pandemic crisis and its subsequent economic challenges presented a defining moment for companies worldwide. Businesses had the opportunity to emerge stronger and forge deeper relationships with customers and partners in order to build companies that are better adapted to tomorrow’s world. The crisis revealed to be unlike any previous situation, whereby traditional crisis-response approaches were not fit for purpose. As business leaders were thrust into situations requiring swift and effective action to ensure the survival of their organisations, many were left questioning whether their industries would be able to adapt to the new reality.
What can CEOs anticipate in the post-crisis world? With the accelerated adoption of digital commerce as a result of the COVID19 pandemic, will consumers return to traditional retail behavioural patterns, or will the digital migration fundamentally alter the global economy?
The recent pandemic crisis has exposed the vulnerability of global supply chains to unprecedented shocks. Attention continues to be placed on the need for global businesses to accelerate their digital transformation and adopt smarter and risk-adjusted business models. As the past few months forced a progressive reduction in physical interaction – be it customer-facing or across operations – automation and digitalisation have become vital for businesses to ensure sustainability.
Fortunately, new technologies have emerged that improve visibility across the supply chain and thus support a company’s resilience to such shocks.
More than two thirds of world trade occur through Global Value Chains (GVCs) where production crosses borders before making it to final assembly lines. Digital developments are transforming these GVCs by creating a new digital thread, allowing for advanced systems of traceability and improved logistics and planning. Moreover, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and its technological advancements have the potential to overcome the physical barriers imposed by any crisis to give societies the digital freedom to achieve
economic and social prosperity.
The biggest fear during the crisis has been its impact on the global economy and the uncertainty as to when the world’s businesses would return to normality. Large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures have driven a sharp fall in consumer and business spending, which has caused the global economy to barrel towards a recession. Furthermore, the crisis had underscored economic inequalities, including those around gender. Women are not only paid less than men, but they make up the majority of global healthcare workers. As our economies slowly begin to emerge with challenging business conditions and unemployment, the current recession can only prolong a global slump.
Innovation, creativity and necessity remain the driving forces behind the advancement of humanity and the acceleration of global good. The spike in demand for e-learning, seen during the pandemic, has encouraged new waves of education systems that are increasingly innovative, inclusive and sustainable. While digitisation offers opportunities to bridge the educational gap by providing cheaper and more accessible ways to learn, the recent crisis exposed the widening digital divide between developed and developing countries.
Over the last few months, the pandemic led to a growing concern about technology’s impact on the future of work, as this could accelerate the perceived “rise of the robots” and the threat to employment. Given that most factory floors had significantly shutdown, we witnessed a spike in automation and introduction of new business models, meaning some of the jobs lost during the crisis may never return as companies restructure their operations to rely more on machines. The industries where the workforce has most been affected are food and beverage, transportation and manufacturing. However, even big tech companies realise that heavily automated industries still rely on humans for essential tasks, and we are still far away from revamping factories to adopt full automation. Even during the outset of the crisis, where the need for automation became more apparent, economies still faltered without human workers, as machines still lack human intelligence and adaptability. What is important for the workforce is to leverage the educational strategies and policies which are required to keep up with the fast-changing employment needs of the industrial sector.
Educational systems need to change towards new curricula and new means of delivery with the goal of improved quality of education (SDG4).
Related issues include the following:
The pandemic placed a strain on vital industries including healthcare, education and telecommunications, where companies within these sectors had to face new realities that went beyond addressing the virus itself. The healthcare industry recognised the importance of technology to accelerate scientific research on sustainable solutions for future emergence of pathogens, drug development and more, by leveraging big and real-time data to guide operational decisions. Likewise, the shift of the global workforce towards remote-work caused unprecedented demand on telecommunications infrastructure and connectivity.
Cancelled domestic and global business travel further impacted the networks with increased reliance on videoconferencing and mobile communications. However, the opportunity to accelerate the adoption of technologies and leverage them to drive production during the crisis, when labour was for the most part unavailable, proved to be successful. We have witnessed a radical shift in traditional business models, where most companies have reimagined the ‘office’ workspace through virtual conferencing tools.
The vast variety of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies make it difficult for companies to choose technologies relevant for them. It is argued that standardisation of these technologies could help companies decide which ones are useful. This session will review the current trends in absorbing digital technologies worldwide, and evaluate the opportunities to create transparency and standards through international institutions.
Furthermore, the recent pandemic has shown that policymakers need to act quickly to strategically formulate a relevant set of standards, as there is a greater shift towards digital adoption.
The recent pandemic gripped the global economy and had forced clean energy efforts to significantly slow down, as it undermined the importance to combat climate change.
Furthermore, the considerable drop in oil prices has also affected the global movement towards adopting renewable energy. The manufacturing industry faces challenges in reducing carbon emissions from energy-intensive sectors such as aviation, shipping, trucking and heavy industry.
Decarbonising these sectors with today’s innovative technology is both doable and affordable, and as governments have devised unprecedented economic stimulus packages to help assist their economies emerge, it is important to encourage efforts to drive climate action and invest in low-carbon solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development
Despite the impact of the pandemic, many countries have commitments to move towards a carbon-neutral future and have significant reduction plans in place.