As history can testify, disruption has been at the heart of every great innovation. It has laid waste to established norms, while simultaneously birthing new ones. As I write this, we are in the midst of an unprecedented disruption on a global scale. But, over the last few years, everyone, from small businesses to state enterprises, has been preparing for large-scale digital disruption. And while the current crisis is a disruption that the world wasn’t expecting, we have been able to respond and adapt quickly, owing to our preparedness in anticipation of a digital disruption.
As I see it, our preparedness comes, in part, from the government’s Digital India program, which has served as an impetus for everyone to embrace technology. Today, the government is once again leading the charge on adopting technology to keep people safe, informed, and connected. The Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracker app, COVID-19 microsite, and MyGov Corona Helpdesk chatbot, etc. are all proving instrumental in keeping citizens updated continuously. Government bodies are leveraging cutting-edge technologies to stay on top of this crisis. We have several examples – in the state of Gujarat, over 80 COVID hospitals are connected and collaborating over Cisco Webex; several state governments are using video to train nurses and hospital staff in handling ventilators; the Aarogya Setu app is using data and GPS to track the spread of infection, etc.
If not for our preparedness, our response would not have been as swift or effective.
Another industry that is setting precedents in embracing digital is healthcare. India has only eight doctors for every 10,000 people as compared to 41 in Italy; over 75% of the medical facilities available in India are in urban areas. Remote healthcare and telemedicine can play a major role in bridging this gap and make affordable healthcare accessible to all. In the present scenario, many private labs and hospitals are moving non-critical consultation to digital platforms. I have a pediatrician friend who is now treating 3x more patients every day on her laptop. In a way, the current situation could lead to widespread adoption of e-health services in the long run.
While healthcare is undoubtedly at the center of every country’s efforts in tackling this challenge, the effects of it are evident across industries, in particular, the education sector. According to UN, 1.4 billion students globally are presently out of school. To ensure that these kids continue to receive an education, educational institutions are switching to virtual classrooms. However, I don’t expect traditional schools to go fully remote. In addition to lessons, children pick up essential life skills and social etiquette at school that they just cannot learn from a computer. However, I believe schools will find a balance between the cloud and the classroom and bring the best of both worlds to students.
The knowledge industry, especially the $190-billion-IT services, and BPO sector, which employs over 4.5 million people, made the switch to working from home almost overnight. Over the last few weeks, IT companies have experienced first-hand the benefits of working from home. This is paving the way for a new way of working and will soon become the norm across the business world. ITeS companies in India fully understand that a ‘wait & watch’ approach is a non-starter; they are taking bold action now to set them up for success through the downturn and beyond.
Lastly, and more importantly, I believe technology has a significant role to play in managing crises in the future, right from predicting, coordinating, and containing it. For example, in hospitals and public areas, we could use AI-enabled robots to disinfect and lower the risk of exposure to people; highly accurate sensors can be used to take vital information remotely; drones can be used to deliver essential goods; applications like India’s Aarogya Setu can be used to determine containment strategy; data analytics can be used to predict pandemic spread as well as to identify, track and forecast such events much ahead in time. The current circumstances are bringing a lot of new use cases for technologies like analytics, AI, robots, drones, AR/VR, etc. to the forefront, and the possibilities of technology are immense.
I, like many of you, have been following the developments of our current crisis closely, and I’m inspired by how magnificently individuals, companies, and countries are rising to the occasion. However, at this crucial juncture, we must take stock of how better prepared we can be in the face of such challenges.
So, it is imperative to ramp up our efforts in preparing for similar disruptions. Here, I believe there are two things allowing us to manage this present challenge. The first is technology. Be it for the delivery of essential services, facilitating fast decision-making, or keeping everyone’s spirits high through quirky apps, technology is perhaps our greatest defense during times like this.
The second and more powerful than any singular solution is our resolve to keep moving forward. I truly believe that times of crisis bring out the best in humanity, and by standing together, we will emerge stronger and better prepared for the future.
As I write this, most of us are working from the safety of our homes. However, there are still many who have to step out every day. I salute our healthcare providers, police forces, security personnel, sanitation workers, and countless others, for keeping the world turning during these extraordinary times. I urge everyone to do what they can to support these communities, and more importantly, please stay at home.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you, your company, customers, and partners are adapting to this disruption. Do share and stay safe.
Read Sameer Garde’s previous blog on Business Continuity – Resetting The Way We Work.