Covid-19 presented the world with an unprecedented set of challenges. It required the brightest minds and the smartest technologies to ensure we not only live our lives to the fullest possible extent amid various forms of lockdowns – but that we emerge stronger as a global society once the worst of the pandemic is finally behind us.

By Doug Woolley, MD of Dell Technologies South Africa

After 18 months of crisis navigation and laying the groundwork to build back better, more resilient and sustainable societies, we are now well positioned to transition from designs of recovery to an ambitious tech-driven reality. From international stimulus funds to newly unveiled plans for the creation of a ‘Global Health Security Fund’ by the World Bank, this cross-governmental commitment to recovery is seismic.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), global economic growth is expected to be 5.7% this year, a sharp upwards revision from the December 2020 Economic Outlook projection of 4.2% for 2021. This optimism is, in part, driven by the global rollout of vaccines. However, it is more than that. Businesses around the world have adapted, becoming more efficient and technologically savvy in this period.


Adapting to accelerate new realities

Practical innovations that kept businesses afloat over the best part of almost two years ranged from embracing virtual desktops and video conferencing to more advanced data processing in our hospitals and banks. Meanwhile, investments into cloud-based technologies as well as AI and machine learning are allowing entire industries to communicate with citizens, customers and service users in a faster, more personable fashion while also automating various back-end processes that previously may have been both a financial and time drain.

While prospects are improving, progress globally remains uneven and highly dependent on the far-reaching rollout of effective vaccination campaigns as well as continued, targeted government stimulus packages. It took only 18 months for the USA and Korea to reach pre-pandemic per capita income levels, while much of Europe is on track to recover by the end of the year or early 2022. The South African economy is projected to rebound by 3.8% in 2021 and 2.5% in 2022.

As progress continues across large parts of the globe, ensuring that the recovery benefits everyone, everywhere is critical to making it truly sustainable. To truly flourish once more and make today and tomorrow’s realities more vibrant and efficient than before, we must continue to focus on sustainable, tech-driven and human-centred solutions that help to bridge socio-economic divides.


Collaborating for the greater good

Next year will bring increased vaccine sharing as governments further address the reality that recovery from the pandemic needs to be truly global. Shortly, COP26 will present a major moment for international co-operation, allowing us to showcase our ability to think strategically and work together to respond to global climate challenges. This will be incredibly important over the next year as key events from G7 meetings to the UN General Assembly will present us with opportunities to share lessons on how to boost recovery.

Globally, governments have paved the way for recovery by investing in stimulus spending. The next step in our recovery is to ensure these funds are used to their fullest to ensure that our way of living, learning and working is as green, globally minded and digital as possible.

Technology has already shown its potential and centrality to societal progress during the pandemic era, keeping citizens connected, powering vaccine research, enhancing healthcare and sustaining education throughout the peaks and troughs. But as we enter a new chapter – coinciding with the technology revolution that promises an explosion in big data with 5G speeds – digital tech has an even greater role to play.


Tech to continue as the great enabler

Moving beyond recovery and settling into a new reality, technology will do more than sustain us. Companies that invest in innovation during a time of crisis outperform their peers during the recovery.  Industry leaders can achieve even greater productivity increases from investments in new technology, pushing them ahead of later adopters. We know that technology underpins our resilience, reinforcing all kinds of businesses with remote capabilities, providing real-time insights across sectors and enabling more impactful digital transformations. Robust digital infrastructures are the foundation for those organisations that remain competitive today, confident in their data management and cybersecurity practices.

Tomorrow, technology will take us a step further – helping us to reimagine the way we live, how we connect and stay healthy. It will transform the relationship between citizens and governments, personalise blended learning in schools and put patients at the heart of their care plans. Businesses will provide services that are truly innovative, giving consumers experiences they don’t yet know they desire thanks to new 5G speeds, AI-powered insights and Edge computing capabilities.


Overcoming data challenges together

But the complexities of the task at hand should not be understated. Ongoing challenges are buffeting economies around the world and organisations are wrestling with their own data paradoxes as the sheer scale of data explodes. This is just a taste of what is to come in the zettabyte era – and capturing the opportunities on the crest of the 4th Industrial Revolution means solving these challenges now. That is why collaboration continues to be an essential ingredient for sustainable progress. Bringing together the brightest sparks from the private and public sectors to turbocharge our new reality is key to ensuring everyone benefits – and that those benefits are meaningful and sustainable.

It takes an entire ecosystem to generate momentum, whether that’s creating vaccines for future pandemics, restructuring for a data-centric enterprise or facilitating the growth of the digital economy. None of these can be done in isolation and without the close collaboration already underway between governments, tech experts and key organisational stakeholders we could not have achieved the level of recovery already experienced.

As the world continues to gain momentum with the move beyond recovery towards our next reality, similarly collaborative approaches should become the new norm – redefining progress with a fresh collectivism. A better reality is one that is inclusive, sustainable and built for everyone. Technology is the vehicle transporting us there now and as we look towards 2022 and beyond.

There’s a long road ahead, but we have the route planned out – we just need to make sure there’s room for everyone on board.