The unfortunate and tragic loss of life in the pandemic will never be forgotten and the personal pain many will suffer forever, is simply heartbreaking. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way we all live, for better or worse. Some elegant solutions to problems, big & small, will stick with us for a long time.

The chaos of the pandemic was swift and the smallest changes impacted our lives every day, like the markers on the floor of the grocery store isles and check-out lines, we now have better queues. In the digital world, many businesses & organizations were pushed to transform. This digital transformation was long overdue.

Whether supporting virtual work and rapid growth or forcing organizations to create and implement digital transformation strategies on the fly, we have jumped forward in this digital accelerator by almost seven years as noted by McKinsey. Forbes feels 2020 became 2025 on the digital acceleration timeline, and no matter what time frame is actually real, this type of organizational growth and forward development is a welcome transformation.

Impact on the private sector

Digital transformation is a broad-reaching topic. In the last two years, the pandemic has changed the mindset of most organizations, forcing them into understanding that new and improved digital tools offer value in many ways and can create competitive advantages.

Many businesses had to shift digitally simply to survive. Businesses were forced to advance their digital transformation, whether they wanted to or not. Smaller and medium-sized organizations had to invent their digital transformation on-the-fly and navigate complexities they never imagined. It was literally, a forced digital maturity, an ad-hoc reinvention of their world to achieve survival via a strange and new digital capacity. Restaurants suddenly had to build out e-commerce to support online orders for pick up or delivery, and today most restaurants you visit will have a QR Code on the table for you to access their menu. The pandemic likely helped solidify many companies’ existence and future. The likes of Door Dash, Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, GrubHub and more digitally transformed overnight, elevated their digital tools, and have forever changed how restaurants and consumers interact.

Negative impact on people creates change

The impacts of the pandemic went beyond loss and isolation - it also pointed a spotlight on social inequalities both in Canada and worldwide and the core need for services to address them.

The impact on women’s lives is highlighted by the United Nations, who wrote, “The recession associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is often referred to as a ‘shecession’, as it has taken a disproportionate toll on women in most countries. Although the pandemic has affected women around the world differently, it has exposed previously overlooked gender biases, such as the gender-racial gap.” Statistics indicate women make up approximately 39% of global employment but account for 54% of pandemic job losses. The weight of unpaid child care, which is disproportionately carried by women, is one of the contributing factors. This has forced significant digital transformation and in Canada, the Canadian Government has initiated a digital transformation of the workplace program, creating greater access to employment, career flexibility, and the ability to work from home, specifically for women.

In many Indigenous, low-income, rural communities the digital divide was amplified during the pandemic. The significant gap between people who have and do not have access to the internet and digital technology (e.g., mobile devices, computers) became a dilemma. It made formerly simple tasks such as attending school or seeing a doctor incredibly challenging or, in some cases, essentially impossible as they shifted online. In British Columbia, the Provincial Government has worked in conjunction with the Federal government to accelerate The Universal Broadband Fund, a $2.75 billion program providing funding to a range of high-speed Internet projects across the country. It has been designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects that will bring Internet at speeds of at least 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps), with a focus on rural and remote communities. This is a critical step towards ensuring digital transformation includes rural and remote communities, as well as forcing conversation and change on accessibility into digital strategies. It has dramatically shifted the digital strategies and priorities of Governments around the world, for the better.

Transformation strategies and next steps are now a priority

The long-tail impact of a forced digital transformation has delivered some very exciting outcomes and many experts feel that right now through 2028, we will see a digital evolution and advancement like never before. Some may question, how can a pandemic result in creating exciting times? The simple and high-level answer, billions will be spent on digital priorities, driving significant growth for digital development vendors, increased hiring by Government digital teams, and the delivery of better online experiences for citizens, consumers, and many marginalized in the digital divide. These are very positive outcomes.

It is estimated that only 7% of private sector companies have a fully implemented digital transformation strategy. The pressure is on private sector businesses to capitalize, grow, and profit as part of their pandemic recovery. The shareholders and executive stakeholders expect success. Their digital transformation strategies must be ramped up and focused on empowering their employees with digital tools and virtual capabilities, engaging proactively and continually with their clients to support and grow service and product revenues, and ultimately creating an improved business operations process.

On the public sector side, governments around the world are now under pressure to advance their digital strategies rapidly, and citizens are demanding it. From creating strategies to establishing frameworks, toolkits to support consistency and simplified execution, and ways to shorten the time around RFPs and actual digital delivery…we are heading into a historical and monumental shift in society that is now powered by rapid digital transformation.

Transformation has been thrust upon us from chaos, and an omnichannel demand is a part of what continues to explode in private business and government for its citizens. People want to be able to use any device, anywhere at any time. By enhancing multi-channel capabilities, buisinesses and governments can provide improved services into any channel people want, including mobile, website, phone, and even wearables.

“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth”. - Tom Barrett

Image Credit: Zoey Li / Midjourney

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