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Digital transformation — a way to accelerate COVID recovery

The growing COVID-19 emergency takes steps to excessively hit developing nations, not just as a health emergency for current but in addition it has overwhelming social, economic and political impacts in future. Recently the bigger challenge for the developing nations is to keep economy moving to ensure food supply and wellbeing of the society during the various barriers of physical distancing and lockdowns. Plagues and pandemics have been undermining mankind on numerous occasions. SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and more have gone on the defensive previously, however, with each such outbreak, we are learning better approaches for battling and overseeing such startling infections that can possibly slaughter a great many individuals. Innovation can’t forestall the beginning of the pandemics; in any case, it can help forestall the spread, instruct, caution, and enable those on the ground to know about the circumstance, and observably decrease the effect.

Today, with converging technologies like mobile, cloud, analytics, robotics, AI/ML, 4G/5G, and high-speed internet, it has become possible to test several innovative approaches to pandemic response. Here, we have listed eight such areas where technology play a vital role through misinformation, finding drugs, increasing traceability and transparency by sharing data, tracking people with facial recognition and big data (like China), contact-less movement and deliveries through autonomous vehicles, drones and robots, technology supported temperature monitoring, Remote working technologies to support social distancing and maintain business continuity etc.

If we specifically talk about Pakistan Economy then five potential areas are expected to have high potentials in COVID and post COVID scenario. At first Digital financial system as the coronavirus, or COVID-19, paralyzes businesses and society worldwide, it’s tempting to backburner digital strategy amid the sharp uptake in business continuity and resiliency efforts and transformation is now necessary to accelerate the business. COVID-19 facilitated the creation of these innovations. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has recently issued a statement, listing a number of measures to reduce the need for visiting bank branches or the ATMs and to promote the use of Digital Payment Services such as internet banking and mobile phone banking. The COVID-19 pandemic could be a game changer for digital financial services. Low income households and small firms can benefit greatly from advances in mobile money, fintech services and online banking. Financial inclusion as a result of digital financial services can also boost economic growth. While the pandemic is set to increase use of these services, it has also posed challenges for the growth of the industry’s smaller players and highlighted unequal access to digital infrastructure. Several actions will need to be taken to ensure maximum inclusion going forward. The shift towards digital financial services was already helping societies advance financial inclusion before the pandemic started, benefiting many low-income households and small firms with typically little access to traditional financial institutions. Lockdowns and social distancing are accelerating the use of digital financial services, just as the SARS epidemic in 2003 hastened China’s launching of digital payments and e-commerce.



Second, Distance & Digital Learning the influence of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has started to pour out its effects on every aspect of our society. One of them is the educational system, and it has proven to be challenging trying to keep it afloat. Most of educational institutions in Pakistan start online classes to educate students for which training programs for teachers are also organized to handle the classes but one major concern that every country like Pakistan has is equality in access to online learning programs. Some students come from underprivileged families and perhaps do not own a personal computer or do not have access to the internet. Some might even live in areas with no electricity. This requires various actions and a special approach. There are multiple examples across the world like China is providing computers to all students that come from families with low income, as well as giving them special mobile data packages. The situation is similar in France, where they are also providing various devices to students with no access to them. Some other countries that have specific measures dedicated to this are the United States, Portugal, and the United Arab Emirates too.

Government agencies all over the world are starting to launch campaigns to raise awareness of distance education. This is all done to communicate better their plan of implementing distance learning programs. These campaigns aim at all groups, students, teachers, administrators, and parents. For example, Saudi Arabia uses a twitter account to keep everyone updated on the latest information regarding education but due to lack of resources Pakistan is unable to do that but use their national terrestrial television programs to deliver learning content to cover most of rural areas too but still few areas are still not covered due to the lack of internet and electricity facilities so, these areas may cover through feature phones vis SMS based conversation so there exist huge potential for these type of service provider and still there is need of public private partnership too to develop such platforms.

Third, Distance Diagnostics as the world is fighting with the coronavirus pandemic, scientists and tech companies are scaling up to contain its spread. From 3D printed ventilator parts to data-collection apps, technology is playing an important role in health sector. Countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan have administered quarantines and social distancing with the help of Big data and social media to trace infections, alert people to hotspots and round up the contacts. Taiwan created what it calls an “electronic fence” which tracks mobile phone data and alerts authorities when someone supposed to be quarantined at home is leaving the house. South Korea even changed the law to allow the state to obtain medical records and share them without a warrant and at this time countries around the world will focus to transform their healthcare system to reduce the deadly effects of virus. The focus of the developing world in particular and mature economies, in general, will change from implementing large scale infrastructure projects to build and expand the capacity to scale up health services. This will also propel growth in indigenous research and development activities in the medical science. One example of such activities can be seen in countries like India and Pakistan where many research groups of multidisciplinary areas have rushed to develop medical equipment such as ventilators and surgical masks in the wake of the current COVID-19 crisis. These solutions are aimed to be more affordable and robust for the developing countries, which will also help such countries to improve public health facilities to withstand any future pandemic or natural disaster. COVID-19 has also given rise to more open-source medical engineering solutions and has brought professionals from different disciplines and countries together, a trend that is set to continue and will have a positive impact on the R&D efforts, especially in the less developed countries of the world.


Fourth is, E-Commerce businesses in Pakistan first embraced e-commerce in 2001. Hundreds of retailers, ranging from clothing outlets to electronic equipment stores, are now using websites to sell goods to customers. Indeed, Pakistan’s iron-clad brother China had witnessed a similar development of e-commerce in 2003 when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hit the country. Millions of people confined to their homes and that was a golden opportunity for online platforms to make sales. The lockdown will give a further driving force to the previously developing portion of online exchange/internet business around the globe. Quite a bit of this effect will likewisebe felt in creating nations that were falling behind the propelled economies. According to the latest e-commerce statistics, the share of online trade is currently about 2.4 trillion USD (https://www.statista.com/outlook/243/100/ecommerce/worldwide), which is set to increase tremendously in the coming years and the number of users in the e-commerce market is expected to increase to more than 5 billion users by 2024, which will be more than 60% of the projected world population of around 8 billion people (https://www.populationpyramid.net/world/2025/) in the same period. This infers for all intents and purposes all of us will be presented to online exchange what’s to come. This will make colossal open doors in the territory of web based business and will counterbalance a portion of the negative outcomes of COVID-19 on the work numbers far and wide. Keep in mind, most online organizations have made due in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown. Amazon even went for an employing binge of 100,000 additional laborers in the US to fulfill the rising need of online customers during the emergency and the Fifth is, Work from home a significant number of the nation’s workers who have been forced to work from home because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic may find themselves permanently working from home, according to a new survey. March 30 review of 317 CFOs and business pioneers that discovered 74 percent of those surveyed expect at least 5 percent of their workforce who worked in organization workplaces previously will become permanent work-from-home representatives after the pandemic closures. A big reason for this is a move by CFOs to find new ways to manage costs. The pandemic will lead to a lot of businesses moving employees to work from home on a permanent basis which will increase companies efficiency through minimizing cost.

Today the greatest risk of worldwide catastrophe is pandemic, an enormously infectious virus that’s more devastating and may kill many people. The transparency that we have gained through this current COVID-19 situation, we now understand that we were not geared up for this pandemic situation. The next pandemic is not a matter of “if it happens”, but “when it happens”, would we be prepared in advance against the pandemic at an individual and collective level. What we actually need is preparedness. Indeed, the technology has advanced more and will continue to advance exponentially, but the human institutions and societies need to accelerate in adapting to it and continue investing in building the technology systems for the preparedness. After the COVID-19 outbreak, it is evident that, from AI to robotics, the technology innovations are helping to manage the epidemic and better equip to fight future public health emergency in a timely, Digital transformation is not a technological fix, a blueprint plan, a one-off event, or a one-size-fits-all strategy. Rather, it is a social learning process, sustained over time, involving diverse stakeholders. Its ultimate objective is to harness the global digital revolution to meet a country’s specific socio-economic priorities. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. It is driven by vision, leadership, innovation, learning, and partnerships among government, business, and civil society. systematic, and calm manner.

Hence it is an important fact that digital technologies have been changing the world economy. However numerous nations still can’t seem to encounter the full developmental advantages of digital technologies, for example, inclusive and sustainable development, better governance, and responsive delivery of services. Given the size of change in competitive advantage that digital technologies can confer on adopters, the risks of slow or poor adoption of these innovations can be dire for industries, governments, individuals, and nations. Along with this Government need to document the international transaction with tax rebates to ensure not only economic expansion but encourage international financial tools to enter in our market like PayPal etc to improve digitalization process. The three main challenges to digital transformation are:

Three key challenges bedevil the design and implementation of digital transformation programs.

Digital technologies are highly interdependent and constitute a dynamic ecosystem which includes: communication infrastructure, digital platforms, digital economy skills, local ICT services and content industries, service transformation for all sectors, cyber policies, and ICT sector leadership and regulatory institutions. Maximizing digital dividends requires nurturing this digital ecosystem and tapping into its synergies at the national, local, and sector levels.

Leadership and institutional capabilities the ICT sector to plan and implement digital transformation strategies. These capabilities are increasingly important to engender shared vision, mobilize long-term commitment, integrate ICT opportunities and investments into development strategies, align complementary policies concerning competition and skills, and pursue partnerships with civil society and the private sector.

Digital transformation demands substantial investment in organizational capabilities, process innovation, and institutional learning. Best practice suggests that every dollar invested in ICT should be matched with a $4 or $5 investment in process improvement, training, change management, etc.

Developing nations have the chance to gain from the experience of frontrunner nations while structuring and formulating policies that address their own issues and fit the local needs by transforming the retailers into e-tailers and it is also the responsibility of state to provide digital framework for doing business, implementation of laws and governance of cyber security laws that will encourage digitalization process. Mastering the digital transformation process is no easy task, but it defines the competency of the 21st century!

Special thanks to Mr. Nadeem Hussain (Ex-CEO Tameer Microfinance Bank ) for his special views
Ms Urooj Aijaz & Commander Qaiser Zaman (Faculty Department of H&SS; Bahria University Karachi)

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