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Leveraging Digitalization for Sustainability

Leveraging Digitalization for Sustainability
July 15, 2020

The COVID-19 virus has caused a global lockdown, restricting movement within and across countries. As a preventive measure, offices, schools, universities, industries, marketplaces, religious institutions, and other places of public gatherings are closed. Citizens of every country have been advised by their respective governments to practice social distancing, to stay at home and be safe in order to stop the spread of the virus. This pandemic has impacted businesses and economies. The challenges have paved the path for digitalization and the emergence of new businesses based on the new digital reality in which every activity and transaction is completely contactless. This is the time to realize digital transformation rather than think about it.

Governments are leveraging the internet, digital platforms and all communication channels to keep people updated with national and global affairs. Many governments have developed mobile applications to connect essential health services and inform users about the best practices, self-assessment, risks, and other advisories related to COVID-19. The applications also notify users when someone, who they have come in contact with, tests positive, allowing them to self-isolate or contact the physician in case of symptoms.

Nearly 50% of physicians have adopted virtual care platforms and telemedicine for telephonic or video conferencing consultations as the pandemic hinders the conventional practice. Virtual care is tailor-made for such ‘medical distancing’ times. Telehealth digital technologies have come of age and help in accomplishing medical distancing.

Nearly 50% of doctors have adopted virtual care platforms and telemedicine amid COVID-19.

Hospitals have become more robotized that ever. Robots have been deployed with iPads and stethoscopes in patients’ rooms, while doctors operate on them from outside and video chat with patients using iPads. Artificial Intelligence has been adopted to analyze datasets, pathology reports, and patient information to help understand the COVID-19 virus, its spread, and how patients are responding to the treatment.

Major IT companies, banks, insurance and financial service providers, and educational institutions are taking part in an unprecedented experiment and adopting telecommuting. The coronavirus outbreak has made remote working a necessity. Companies are leveraging Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Google Hangouts and Meet, Zoom, LogMeIn, Cisco tools, and other digital technologies for virtual meetings and video conferencing.

Virtual workplaces for employees are saving time, money, and energy spent on commuting while facilitating work-life balance and sustainable growth and development. The benefits for employers include overhead cost savings and higher productivity.

The pandemic has also changed education drastically by giving rise to e-Learning. Schools and universities are conducting classes remotely, through virtual tutoring and video conferencing using digital platforms.

Governments and banks are shifting toward digital platform for banking. There is an increased reliance on telebanking and net banking, in addition to remote working. Digitalization provides an enhanced customer experience and reduces the scope of human errors, therefore building customer loyalty. Digitalization has facilitated cashless and contactless transactions.

Digital technologies and services present opportunities for banks to automate operations, identify repetitive and mundane tasks, and explore automation options with technology partners of their choice.

Blockchain banking facilitates faster and easier transactions. Here, transactions that have been validated are stored into blocks that are sealed with hash locks. These blocks comprise a blockchain when other systems in the network validate the lock on the blocks. These transactions cannot be modified and remain safe and secure from unwanted alterations.

The pandemic has caused many events around the world to be canceled or postponed owing to social distancing norms. On the contrary, virtual events and webinars have been organized instead. Since social gatherings and public events are prohibited, people have found ways to stay connected via digital means like WhatsApp, FaceTime, video conferencing, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

In some parts of the world, governments have passed laws to allow virtual marriages, as temporary measures for the solemnization and registration of marriages during COVID-19 and to prevent huge gatherings or extravagant marriage celebrations, resulting in reduced wastage as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the media and entertainment industry, which is proving to be disastrous for movie theaters, entertainment events, and entertainment parks due to the lockdown. On the other hand, there has been an increase in the viewership of digital and OTT platforms in addition to TV and gaming. Channels are re-running their most-viewed and loved shows during the pandemic. The latest movies, instead of waiting to be released in theaters after the lockdown, are being released on digital OTT platforms.

Gaming is another area that can benefit from overall digitalization. News channels are also popular amidst coronavirus as they provide real-time updates.

Due to the ‘work from home’ practice, OTT consumption has seen a drift from mobile screen to the large screen over broadband internet.

Retailers have realized the need for digital solutions and new retail ecosystems. Drive-in retail allows sales despite closed stores. Live commerce or live-stream shopping is a combination of streaming of video and e-commerce. Retailers are attempting to bring consumers closer to the ‘in-person’ experience. Various platforms and applications enable live streaming. There will be revolution in the retail industry and shopping habits with digitalization eventually. However, online shopping and e-commerce are here to remain and are still relatively unchanged

There is a need for new digital services and platforms that would connect local retailers and consumers, without involving giants like Amazon and Google. Google’s local inventory ads can advertise products available nearby that can be delivered at home. Retailers create online shopping channels on various social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Digitalization has found a new dimension. There is a need to think of ways to minimize disruption and less direct human interaction caused due to the pandemic. Digital transformation can help organizations and nations to meet their sustainability goals.

Rapid urbanization has caused problems like pollution, traffic, population rise, and increased crime rates. Intelligent automation, big data, IoT, AI, and ML are playing a key role in building smart cities, smart police forces, crime prediction, smart homes, smart organizations, smart infrastructure, smart healthcare, smart technology, and smart transportation. Virtual power plants and enabled renewable energy resources, including solar panels, can be connected to a network to provide a reliable power supply. These plants deploy software-driven technology on the smart grid.

Cities can record a significant reduction in pollution and the air quality index using digital solutions. There will be no smog and the air will be cleaner. There will be controlled traffic and less pollution on the roads. Being smart, we can drastically reduce energy consumption, pollution, and greenhouse emission in our cities. To achieve national sustainability goals, there is a need to look for platforms that can optimize the re-use, recycle, and renew culture in various industries on a zero-waste basis.

Digitalization and sustainability are a match made in heaven. Digitalization makes the idea of a shared economy possible. It enables owners, renters, and companies to come together on an online platform to share accommodation, cars, bikes, appliances, etc. Sharing trough digital transformation is the answer to over-consumption and the efficient use of resources.

As the Dalai Lama once said, “it is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the world we live.”