B20 Virtual Plenary: Charting the course for revival – how technology can help the economy

30 April 2020

On April 21, leaders of the B20 Saudi Arabia hosted a panel discussion with Jean Case, Chief Executive Officer of the Case Foundation and Chair of National Geographic, and Nasser Al-Nasser, Chief Executive Officer of stc and Chair of the B20 Digitalization Taskforce, to consider how technology can help businesses better prepare and support employees’ return to work as countries begin to loosen restrictions and reignite economies.

The discussion was centred on one critical point: What does the future look like and what role does technology play?

Irrespective of different opinions about when COVID-19 will be suppressed, there is one thing that all can agree on: the role technology plays will continue to evolve and will not diminish.

Post-COVID-19, the world will be different. Digital commerce and virtual work will grow to be the norm. Most organizations will likely implement remote working culture for 50-70% of their workforce, creating a day-to-day with which many of us were previously not familiar.

To keep up with these new realities, and others we cannot yet imagine, there will need to be breakthroughs in digital transformation.

For all of us to be productive under the current circumstances, it is crucial we have access to the digital world. As such, COVID-19 has created a sense of urgency that is pushing digitalization to its limits, and the industry is stepping up to change and improve access. In fact, for most businesses, COVID-19 accelerated their digitalization timeline exponentially, and enabled business leaders to experience the benefits of a digital environment.

Collaboration among business, government, and non-profit will be part of the solution. When all sectors lock arms and chase towards innovation, we can find success.

Challenges have been with us since the beginning of the tech world, often seemingly insurmountable. But big moments such as this will lead us closer to closing the digital divide and creating a more resilient digital infrastructure.

These are also moments to reexamine business’s primary priorities. Resiliency and sustainability, for instance, absolutely can and must be integrated. Consumers have never been watching more closely to assess corporate response.

Companies understand that sustainability is not a choice, particularly as demographics shift globally, bringing more women and millennials into the roles of active consumers and investors. Organizations will be judged by their actions today, not just what they are saying about their long-term plans.

The COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last life-altering crisis we encounter. It is, however, a chance to look critically at the path we are on, where we would like to be and the tools needed to get us there. Digital infrastructure will be critical to addressing similar challenges in the future, working in parallel with regulations and incentives to ensure fast, efficient connectivity and a resilient global society.

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