Is this the right time for innovation, digitalization, and AI?

Disclaimer: The views represented in this article are the personal views of the author.

Let us first take a moment to thank all the medical professionals, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, police, fire personnel, pharmacists, and all other individuals on the frontlines who are tirelessly working to keep us all safe and to keep the essential services in an economy running during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are one of those fortunate ones, who have been afforded the enviable luxury to stay at home, work from home, and continue to get a paycheck while doing so, then thank your good fortune and remember to pay it forward. There are millions of others who are unemployed, underemployed, have loved ones suffering, or worse yet, lost someone. Let’s offer a prayer and a moment of silence for the lives lost.

While on the one hand there is immense suffering, on the other hand most business leaders are working extremely hard to keep their startups, factories, companies, and organizations running so that when life returns to normal, there are jobs to go back to for all their employees and the economy can begin humming again. This is not being naive, this is being optimistic. Amidst all of these seemingly insurmountable challenges, innovations are happening around the world.

As noted in [1], the great plague in the 1300’s gave birth to the modern society with increasing wages and more people moving into the middle class. The pandemic of 1918 gave birth to advances in healthcare administration, creation of health departments, and investments in epidemiological studies. The more recent SARS epidemic paved the way for e-commerce to take hold in Asia. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic is already spurring innovations in all sectors of the economy [2-7]:

  • Medicine
    • modified ventilators
    • 3-D printing
    • vaccines
    • AI in medical decision support
    • Telemedicine
    • 5G-powered thermometers
    • smart bracelets to enable round-the-clock health stats monitoring
    • contact-tracing and associated data mining
  • Tech for remote working
  • Entertainment media
  • Augmented reality
  • Holographic telepresence
  • e-shopping
  • e-learning
  • Food delivery
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Cybersecurity and AI-based threat detection
  • Digital KYC
  • Anti-money laundering and Anti-fraud tools

Wherever feasible, this is the time for organizations to double down on innovation, digitalization, and AI. If anything has become clear, it is that if you are not ready to become digital-first and be innovative, you may not survive another pandemic, worse still, not even this one. It is imperative that organizations and teams around the world realize the importance of digitalization and innovation. These are not buzzwords, sideshows, afterthoughts, website space-fillers, or crowd-pullers; they may very well save your teams and organizations. Don’t learn this the hard way.

This is a time for reflection and evaluation of your organization’s digital capabilities and innovation arsenal and to seek help wherever needed. If you are a service provider, now is the time to service your clients better and you will be better off for it post this crisis. Wherever feasible, do consider offering these services for free or at a reduced price during this crisis. Help your clients make better decisions using their existing data. Introduce them to how digitalization, data analytics, and AI can open new doors and create new business opportunities. Make a sincere effort to invest in your clients now and I am sure they will reward you with a lifetime of loyalty. Post the pandemic, when life is back to the new normal, the visionary leaders will have take already taken on digitalization and innovation projects and you don’t want to be left behind.

In every organization, the innovation engines must not stop, in fact they should spur on with twice the capacity so that they can take on the newly created challenges once lives are back to the new normal.

What could it mean for different industries?

In insurance companies this could mean more chatbots, more agents on video calls on i-pads, more automated claims reporting, more automated claims processing, customer onboarding, and superfast claim payments.

In banks, this could mean more video tellers, e-payments, no-touch loan processing, and other features.

In logistics companies, this could mean using more autonomous vehicles and drones.

In restaurants, more automated ordering and delivery.

For establishments like malls and restaurants, it could mean more robots assisting with sanitation tasks.

In hospitality and travel, it could mean more holographic telepresence.

In education, it could mean more e-learning.

All in all, let’s endeavor to come back stronger than when we went into this crisis.

References:

[1]https://www.forbes.com/sites/kmehta/2020/03/09/why-coronavirus-will-stimulate-innovation/#5a7be1a72283

[2]https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/15/hot-spots-of-innovation-as-a-result-of-coronavirus-pandemic.html

[3]https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3077414/coronavirus-tech-will-continue-improve-our-lives-long-after

[4] https://hbr.org/2020/03/delivery-technology-is-keeping-chinese-cities-afloat-through-coronavirus

[5] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/coronavirus-leading-through-the-crisis

[6] https://www.gatesnotes.com/Health/Pandemic-Innovation

[7] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-1918-flu-pandemic-revolutionized-public-health-180965025/

[8] Free images from pixabay.com

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