Just twelve months since the world woke up to the ‘new normal’, with many countries entering unprecedented lockdowns, vaccination programmes and an easing of local restrictions are sparking light at the end of the tunnel, writes Doug Woolley, Managing Director Dell Technologies South Africa.

Now, we have the possibility to build a bold new world as we look to the future. But first, we have some reflecting to do.

Looking back to March 2020, it was clear that in order to survive and flourish amongst the ensuing uncertainty, innovation would be key to sustaining some of our most vital sectors, supply chains and jobs. The sheer speed and scale at which digital transformations took place and supported entire industries as they adapted was astonishing. Technology took the spotlight; keeping businesses open, students in (sometimes virtual) classrooms, social lives connected, and essential services flowing.

Technology as an enabler

Last year we were reminded of the force for good that technology can be – providing a glimpse of what is possible now and, in the future, and we have learned that a digital future will be a central pillar within our societal evolution.

If harnessed effectively, tech will continue to lead global efforts to support recovery, playing a pivotal role in enabling governments to “build back better” for the long-term – that is, ensuring that the systems we put in place not only solve the problems of today, but also ensure that we are prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

The continued digitalisation of governments will be a crucial steppingstone when it comes to driving change in the medium and long-term – and if we can take anything from 2020 it should be pace of innovation and hunger for change.

As global leaders design and implement recovery strategies to repair and reinforce resilience, it is not surprising that across the board we are seeing a real emphasis on technology, connectivity and bridging digital divides. We are living in a world where we can see the fruits of digital transformation – with doctors’ appointments going online, the world embracing video calls for work (and to share time and celebrations with family), and many essential services and supply chains going digital – now we can dare to dream even bigger.

Some medical offices and hospitals have already been turbocharged with real-time analytics, helping them respond to and prioritise patient needs, while driving better patient outcomes. Building back better means making these digital technologies mainstream on a global level and ensuring everyone has access to those improved outcomes.

The fact that only those locations and citizens with good digital access can benefit is pertinent and shows the scale of the challenge that lies ahead for many governments as they build protections against potential future crises.

Keeping up the pace of innovation

The agility and resilience of businesses and the public sector has been put to the test, and those organisations with a solid grip on digital technologies fared better in the pandemic than those that didn’t.

This provides a clear case for the accelerated digitalisation of government. As we enter the next phase of recovery, the hybrid world is here to stay.  Digital investment will represent a key part of government plans around the world and, can play an integral role in driving competitiveness, economic growth and job creation.

From supporting eGovernment strategies, to assisting telehealth infrastructure and investing in the digital transformation of education, governments’ 2021 plans are embracing the importance of universal access and the role of technology as an enabler of a more equal society. This is underscored with a focus on connectivity in recovery planning, setting out to improve internet access and preparing for 5G connectivity.

In the Dell Technologies 2020 Digital Transformation Index, we found that 79% of organisations in South Africa have successfully accelerated at least some of their digital transformation programs this year. This shows good progress; however, there is still work to be done. Continuous digital transformation is not easy, with a large number of businesses facing entrenched barriers to transformation as they navigate their future.

Staying connected is key

Connective technologies will support the roll-out of digital services, keeping organisations, businesses and public sector services operating efficiently – a crucial point as citizens now have higher expectations for the services their governments provide. With data-driven tech, governments can leverage analytics and predictive insights helping to prevent anything from future epidemics to public safety incidents.

Technology is a powerful tool for governments to build a world that works for people, globally. By committing to continual transformation – even amid uncertainty – businesses can help to shape their ideal future. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated that businesses can be nimble and transform quickly.

Close to half have already extended their business domain; however, what businesses do next will be telling. Expediency is necessary – but ongoing transformation is vital, and there is plenty of room for advancement.

Building back better means digital

Technology will drive the recovery agenda, and enable truly innovative proposals and programmes, that are citizen-centric, reform focused, and which promise to make a meaningful impact across the healthcare and education sectors as well as eGovernment – with sustainability at heart.

Digital technologies will form the backbone of future-facing infrastructure planning, creating seamless integrations across organisations, making essential services accessible for all.

Through building the critical infrastructures to support digital growth, we can design services that embrace sustainability, which is also crucial for our collective futures. This all requires out of the box thinking, excellent use of digital tools and the bravery to set our world on a different, more harmonious course.

Now is the time to be bold, dream differently and drive the recovery with enhanced governmental and workplace digitalisation.

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