13 May 2020

Has the lockdown fast-tracked digital transformation?

By requiring nearly a third of the workforce to work from home, Covid-19 has exposed billions of people around the world to new business practices. Are they here to last?

 

“Hello doctor, I have an appointment”. One of the most obvious transformation examples is in medicine, where in France, the number of tele-consultations has risen sharply during the lockdown: from less than 10,000 per week to more than 489,369 during the week of 23 to 29 March, according to the French health insurance provider Assurance Maladie. The figures tell a similar story in the USA, the UK, Italy and elsewhere. This is a phenomenal growth when you consider this sector is particularly cautious when it comes to technology. Will this be a permanent transformation that stays with us after the current crisis?

 

Reflecting on new habits arising from the lockdown

Will a remote doctor’s appointment ever replace the real thing? Of course not. But it is a partial substitute in times of crisis, especially for the elderly who are staying at home. In the USA, Dr. Baccash, a geriatric medicine specialist based in Brooklyn who was recently interviewed by the New York Times, explained: “taking a medical history gives you 90% of the information you need, with the remaining 10% coming from the physical exam.” But in France, some people are calling for caution and the need to reflect on health data or platforms that connect doctors and patients. What’s happening in other sectors?

 

Some transformations are here to stay

So says Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft 365, who believes that in the future, we’ll look back on this period as a real turning point in our ways of working. From video meetings to working miles away from your office… What if we kept the best parts of our experiences over the past few weeks and made them our new normal? In China, for example, which entered lockdown before us, live video apps are still being widely used. And many analysts agree that the lockdown lifted the remaining barriers to deeper adoption of digital tools in most organisations.

 

But transformation will affect some workers more than others

Ensuring continuity of digital infrastructure and services, so as to enable people to carry on working throughout the crisis period, has been heavily reliant on our everyday heroes known as our “essential workers”. The flip side of an increasingly digital economy is that the more that restaurants and retailers decide to invest in digital, the more we must rely on this workforce. This workforce is now facing a second risk, amplified by the Covid-19 crisis: that of seeing their trade becoming more and more automated.