The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has created significant disruptions in most areas around the world, including businesses, education, and our everyday lives. While brick-and-mortar businesses and schools have closed their doors, we have locked ourselves in our homes to stop the virus from spreading.
So far, the COVID-19 virus has affected over 210 countries and territories around the world, causing most world economies to struggle with shortage of critical supplies, rising unemployment, and impacting over 60% of the world’s population.
But there’s also a bright side of the pandemic crisis: it has led to the acceleration of digital transformation by highlighting the competitive edge the digital platforms can provide. As people worldwide find themselves working or studying from home, ordering goods online, and binge-watching TV series, all online, the COVID-19 crisis is driving a massive digital transformation.
Here are the three key areas where the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption.
Work from Home
Lately, social media was bombarded by a meme that depicts a survey question:” Who led the digital transformation of your company?”, having three possible answers: the CEO, the CTO, and COVID-19. Now, obviously, the answer choice with “COVID-19” was circled in red. That’s because, for many businesses worldwide, it was COVID-19.
The COVID-19 outbreak was followed by numerous restrictions imposed by governments to stop the virus from spreading, including social distancing and lockdown restrictions. Therefore, brick-and-mortar businesses had two options, either close their doors for good or send their employees to work from home.
Soon, remote work, video conferencing, and collaboration tools have become the new normal, being best described by Apple in its new ad about working from home.
According to data from Pew Research Center, before the pandemic crisis, only 7% of workers in the US had access to telework. In Europe, most countries having up to 10% of remote employees, except for a few countries such as Sweden, Netherlands, and Denmark, which had up to 20% of remote employees. But that’s before the pandemic started.
The COVID-19 outbreak was a game-changer, making over 64% of US employees work from home, according to recent research. Moreover, according to data from Gallup, 59% of US workers who have been working from home during the lockdown restrictions claim they would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible.
Right now, virtually all jobs have become more tech-enabled that it was only a few months ago due to various reasons, including government restrictions, changing customer needs, and, obviously, remote work. So, it’s no doubt that workplace digital technology has gone from “nice to have” to “the way things get done”. Consequently, CIOs who have been long-time supporters of automation are suddenly getting a lot of support from CFOs and CHROs as well.
Obviously, this has also led to high demand for home equipment and office technology such as video calling or real-time collaboration software. Plus, fun fact, Google Meet grow its peak daily usage by 30 times since January.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the world was dealing with a learning crisis. But, as mentioned above, the nationwide closure of schools, due to the ongoing pandemic, has affected over 60% of the world’s student population.
Now, school closures, at such a large scale, is unprecedented and, on the long-term, can have terrible outcomes, including loss of learning in the short term but also loss in human capital and even diminished economic opportunities.
So, we see large-scale, worldwide efforts to make a transition to technology in support of remote learning, distance education, and online learning during the pandemic. Right now, the entire world has developed a virtual culture for universities as most schools worldwide held their classes using video conferencing and collaboration tools such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Google Classroom.
Although online learning has grown in popularity over the last decade, it’s a paradigm shift that universities face that no one ever expected. Yet, online learning is effective for chemistry, math, literature, languages, history, and all other subjects. Thanks to the advancements of technology, students can now learn almost anything online.
Forced by the sudden closure of physical campuses and schools, universities had to move online to continue education for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. Once again, while technology in education was a thing “nice to have” has become the only way that students can learn and teachers can teach.
E-commerce is perhaps the sector that has most experienced the digital shift due to the ongoing pandemic crisis. Yet, unlike other sectors, e-commerce was already online. The only thing that differed was the shift of customers from purchasing goods from physical stores to buying online. In fact, according to ThinkwithGoogle, interest in online shopping and how to buy online has grown two times worldwide since the beginning of March.
It’s not surprising that consumer behaviors have become increasingly digital, given the lockdown measures in many countries. What is interesting, however, is the rapid adoption and variety of online services offered and tapped into the online due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Take small businesses like coffee shops or restaurants, for examples. All restaurants, cafes, and bars had to be closed due to lockdown restrictions in many countries around the world. However, many coffee shops and restaurants rapidly adapted to new conditions and started offering their products to-go or through home delivery.
However, e-commerce businesses have also experienced specific challenges such as sudden increased demand for their products or services, customer behavior changes, and disruptions in supply chains. To deal with all these challenges, e-commerce players also had to immerse into online even more. For example, they had to invest in an e-commerce site that suits the changing needs of consumers. They had to offer more optimized functionalities of their web stores, and they had to open new web stores for new regions or markets where they previously only had physical stores.
The pandemic has accelerated the use of technology worldwide, in various industries. While businesses, universities, and individuals that are not yet well adapted to the digital world may find it more difficult, technology is here to stay even in the post-COVID era.