Last March, the seismic shift caused by the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt. In a matter of few months, the entire humanity rose to the occasion and reimagined every possible facet of our daily lives, healthcare infrastructure and business ecosystems to tide over the pandemic. At the heart of this watershed moment is an unprecedented scale of digital adoption across government agencies, industries, medical bodies, and enterprises. While the pandemic crippled the lives of both individuals as well as organisations, it also fast-tracked high technology adoption across the globe and fuelled a cultural transformation that otherwise would have taken another decade or more.

With multiple lockdowns, Indian masses soon switched to a digital lifestyle—be it for work, education, entertainment, or procurement of daily essentials. The local kirana stores shifted to online ordering and doorstep delivery as their primary business. Schools and colleges reconceptualised education with digital classrooms and online learning for millions of students across the length and breadth of the country. And, with doctors switching to teleconsultation and government bodies facilitating vaccinations and other Covid-19--related supplies through online platforms, digital disruption penetrated the common man’s life like never before.

Track and trace with tech

While our medical staff tended to patients, senior government officials and experts leveraged surveillance technologies to deploy technology to cap the spread of the virus. In less than a month of the outbreak, India saw at least 19 new applications being used by state-central governments and even local civic bodies, with an estimated 10 million users, to manage the COVID-19 crisis. While Arogya Setu remains the most popular app amongst Indians, many start-ups like Innefu and Qkopy found business opportunities through their tech offerings to manage the crisis. They developed Unmaze to help track quarantined individuals and GoK Direct-Kerala app to share latest health updates. Corona Watch, SMC-COVID Tracker, SAHYOG, and COVID19-Feedback are some other applications being leveraged by government authorities to control the spread, map affected citizens and geofence places with a large number of infections. The second wave of Covid-19 saw a second wave of innovation to manage the acute shortage of hospital beds, ventilators, oxygen supplies etc. A whole new range of applications and portals like Search My Bed, COVID SoS, Sprinklr now focused on locating emergency medical supplies. Moreover, Twitter emerged as the most effective solution to map Covid-19-related resources. The recently launched advanced search option makes it a seamless experience for distressed users to search for tweets with specific keywords, geo location and even dates.

‘Hybrid’ is the future

The Work From Home (WFH) economy is arguably one of the biggest transformation stories of the 21st century with a direct impact on almost half of the world’s population. Interestingly, a report submitted by PwC India put India as the highest use of A.I. in 2020, with over 70% of Indian organisations deploying A.I. in more areas as compared to around 62 per cent in 2019. This is higher when compared to major economies like Britain, Japan, and the U.S. While WFH emerged as a household name in 2020, the shift to a more sustainable hybrid work model is inevitable. Forward- looking organisations like SAP are moving away from the desk-chair paradigm and leveraging technology to reimagine the office to create more collaborative and community-like spaces for employees on-site and those logging in from the comfort of their homes.

Tech for good

Technology and innovation should benefit the society at large, especially during a pandemic like this. Therefore, when the Indo German Chamber of Commerce approached us to build a marketplace to help facilitate the easy exchange of Covid-19 resources among member companies, we leveraged SAP JAM as a collaboration platform to onboard over 400 organisations in less than a week and help bridge the demand-supply gap, thereby accelerating the process and saving crucial time. We’re also leveraging our in-house technology to build a solution for tracking the liquid medical oxygen in the country. The solution integrates directly with the Oxygen Digital Tracking System (ODTS) and will help monitor the measures to increase the availability of Oxygen, streamline the distribution and strengthen the oxygen storage infrastructure in the country.

Besides fostering collaboration and cohesion amongst individuals, enterprises and institutions, tech- based solutions have brought in a cultural revolution, especially in countries like India, where the pandemic has fast tracked digitalisation beyond boundaries, for the good.

Views are personal. The author is SVP, SAP User Enablement, and MD, SAP Labs India.

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