Post-Covid 19 digital transformation | Daily News


 

Post-Covid 19 digital transformation

Eight years ago, I wrote in this paper about “using the phone instead of a the car”. Most of what I wrote then has become a reality today under the COVID 19 lockdown. The article was prompted by this statement by Greg Hanscom, journalist and founder of Grist.org, “ My Phone gets me where I want to go”, on March 1st, 2012 . I wrote, “This is the future, and this is the best solution for us in Sri Lanka with the rising cost of petrol and bus fares and traffic jams. Today traveling from one place to another is often absolutely unnecessary. We save on manpower costs, by eliminating travel time. We save on road construction and maintenance. We save on electricity and water in offices and schools. Most important, we reduce pollution to a great extent, which in turn provides a saving on healthcare costs and down time on productivity....many of the government and private sector offices could be closed down, or be managed with just a skeleton staff. Majority of the staff members could work from their homes via the internet and telephone, even banking .....utility bill payments also could go on-line...video conferencing.....online teaching and examinations. Online shopping and home delivery”

These were some of the suggestions I made, and I concluded the article, “Such a scenario is not about the next century, but something achievable now, within a very short period. Then mankind could have more time to spend with their families and loved ones, to breath cleaner air, drink cleaner water, and lead healthier lives.”

During the past two months, step by step we are achieving these objectives. We need to continue, even after COVID 19. We should never go back, because we have seen the many advantages of working from home.

A very good success story is the Tea Auction. We are doing better than when it was held as a traditional auction. Perhaps we should explore any advantages in opening it out to overseas buyers to participate directly. Paperless business and banking is becoming a reality. Even Bitcoin could become legally accepted currency. If we could avoid handling coins or paper money during COVID 19, let us think of continuing the practice. Minting companies could go out of business, but they could always diversify into other ventures.

When we look at the savings for the country, the foreign exchange savings in fuel is the first thing that comes to mind. If we could maintain the present rate of fuel consumption in minimising vehicle use, while shutting down thermal power plants because of the reduced use of power consumption in public and private offices and other institutons, half the budget deficit could disappear. Another great saving would be in the import of paper. Newspapers need not be printed, we are getting used to reading e-papers. With online teaching, the billions spent on printing school text books and school uniforms could be saved.

A large drop in OPD, channeling and indoor patients has been reported from around the country. If many people could manage their health without attending a public clinic or consulting a medical specialist for two months it could be because they are healthy or they can recover without medicine. If this trend could be studied, it could lead to a massive saving in healthcare, specially imported drugs. We can also expect telemedicine – which I mentioned in my e-novel (the first e-novel from Asia) in 1998 to advance in leaps and bounds in the next few years. There are already diagnotic systems and remote operated units for patients to access their hospitals or clinics.

If we do not have to travel so much, for employment or social gatherings or just for the sake of travel, we would not need so many clothes and shoes and cosmetics. Sadly, almost all the clothes we use today are imported. We could manage with what we produce within our own country. Our consumption of food and drink too would have dropped during the past few months, except perhaps among the most affluent. When we had to order our food and drink online, or had to wait in long queues at the neighbouring grocery, we purchased only what was essential, or what was available. We managed to do without other commodities, which we now realize are not essential. One great saving through online purchase and delivery was that impulsive buying did not happen much. Visiting a shop or supermarket always meant buying a lot more than what we planned to buy, or even really wanted. Let the home delivery systems that started during the curfew continue, and spread islandwide.

For two months we did not see any marketing or sales persons. All the advertising, marketing and propaganda were through radio, television and social media. Doctors continuedd to prescribe drugs, without any detailing or prompting by marketing teams, because all the details a doctor needed for any drug or any treatment could be esaily accessed online.

The air is cleaner that we can even see Sri Pada, once again, from Colombo. The children do not have to wake up before dawn, travel for hours to and from school.

The private tuition system too has now started teaching online. The advantages are many. The children escape all the evil, antisocial habits picked up by them, in and outside the tuition classes.

They do not have to rush for these classes immdiately after school and spend the entire afternoon, sometimes late into the night packed into a tiny space. They have more time to study on their own, spend time with their parents and siblings, read books, play games. Families are free to go out in the weekends and school holidays.

Commuters do not have to drive themselves and others mad, in traffic congestions, or be packed like coconuts in busses or trains. The public does not have to spend several days travelling to public offices, and spend hours or days to get something done. Urban migration could end, thus reducing the housing problem in the city.

Man believes that he is the most intelligent, learned and innovative animal on earth. Then he should be able to find new means of earning a living, by reasonable and honest means, even if he became unemployeed in the new post-Covid 19 digital transformation.

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