Has the Lockdown Pushed Digitalisation or Digital Divide?
Published by : Industrial Automation
Every industry faced a challenge due to the lockdown, and only those who had adopted technology proactively could survive and fight back, asserts Mohua Sengupta.
Has Digitalisation gained due to ‘lockdown’? Most of us seem to think that it has. On a lighter note, many organisations are going as far as crediting the lockdown as their Chief Digital Officer. Lockdown definitely has promoted Digitalisation but hasn’t it also increased the Digital Divide?
So what is Digital Divide and why should one be concerned about it?
While the dictionary meaning of Digital Divide would be ‘the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not,’ today the term is used more and more to represent the gap between organisations which are Digital ready and those which are not.
As we have seen in the past 6/7 years, there has been a huge buzz around digitalisation, in almost all industries. But different organisations followed their digitalisation path in different pace. While some industries leapfrogged into it, some took it at a slower pace, some started with only POCs waiting to be doubly sure, and some others have completely ignored the upcoming change. While that seemed okay until this lockdown, during the lockdown the first and the second set of companies really got a huge advantage over the third and fourth set.
All industries got affected by the Covid-19 related lockdown. Only very few industries got benefitted. If we take a few of the commonly known industries, we can analyse what this Digital Divide truly means for that industry.
Let’s start with Banking. We will all agree that most of the Retail or Commercial Banks in India were digital ready, as far as the basic needs were concerned. And this was enough till the lockdown. But there were a handful, who had focused on the sophistication of usage and the variety of services that they could provide seamlessly via any online medium. And it is the latter who could capitalise on their being digital savvy and manage a larger piece of the pie during this lockdown. Many customers opened new accounts in Banks known for their being digitally easy for use.
If we look at the Retail industry, where there was a clear demarcation between the e- commerce players like Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, etc., and the traditional stores, where we can walk in, and experience the touch and feel of various items before we buy them. While a few lazy people like myself preferred to order online, most people preferred to walk into a store for an in-store experience. Most retail brands who focused on their in-store experience, did invest in an e-commerce platform, but did not focus on it. Only the ones who did focus came out winners during the lockdown; the others were forced to put together a rough and dirty platform, or clean up whatever they had, in order to give their customers a smooth shopping
experience. Even when I look at the groceries in my neighbourhood, there are some, who focused more on their personal connect with the neighbourhood and providing extraordinary customer service by way of that personal connect, actually lost the battle during the lockdown. They traditionally did not invest in any form of digitalisation. The ones who were more e-commerce savvy, gained. And point to note here is that their level of digitalisation had nothing to do with the size of their business, or their daily turnover. I am not comparing a kirana shop with a grocery chain. I am talking about almost equivalent size of businesses.
One of the biggest potential differentiators of most organisations, especially those in the Manufacturing industry, is the supply chain management system. And this lockdown has caused significant disruption to the supply chain. Only the organisations who had embraced digital capabilities to strengthen their SCM, could do the necessary rightsizing and automation to continue with production and distribution. The rest struggled. Many had to shut down production at least temporarily. Due to this experience a lot of the companies are now investing in human intervention free SCM.
If we come even closer to home, to our children’s schools, we again see the digital divide in all the starkness. While some schools who had invested proactively in technology could quickly switch to online classes and run it smoothly, the rest struggled for months and still haven’t cleaned up all the glitches. Once again these are all equivalent private schools with quite hefty fees.
We can keep going on and on with examples from various industries. The bottom-line is, every industry faced a challenge due to the lockdown, and only those who had adopted technology proactively could survive and fight back.
I think while this lockdown has really made every corner of the economy to leapfrog their Digitalisation journey, it has also fast tracked the prediction made by Mary Barra, the CEO of GM. ‘At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.’
Mohua Sengupta is a Senior Business Leader, with 25+ years of experience across the globe, both in the Financial Services and IT Services Industry. In the past decade, Mohua has focused on Digital Transformation, Digital Banking, Distributed Ledger Technologies, Application of Emerging Technologies in Banking, Insurance Healthcare to name a few.