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Mother of invention

When the global scourge has passed, and it will soon, the world will not be the one the world knew before as new demands from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are driving innovation like never before.

The use of artificial intelligence is becoming prevalent, and China seems to lead the way in new technologies, such as unmanned public transport and delivery systems.

Similar to the great depression that started in 1929 that was considered to have spurred the industrial revolution, the new global crisis will accelerate the pace of the digital age, mainly in the use of robots as part of daily life.

Singapore, for instance, has taken the leap and had deployed robots to remind people about social distancing.

The need to keep a safe distance from another person is prompting faster development of remote technology, a challenge which the country should start to take on if it does not want to be left out again.

While the business sector recognizes the need to step up to get onboard the swift digital shift, government should complement with urgent reforms to support businesses in their quest for innovation.

European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (ECCP) president Nabil Francis said businesses that wanted to become serious contenders during the health crisis had no choice but to reconfigure their operations toward digitization and automation.

Companies have institutionalized flexible work arrangements to minimize health risks and reduce costs, while many have maximized online platforms to expand the reach of their goods and services.

Collaboration among businesses to ensure continuity will be an easier task if government, Francis said, will be proactive in enacting measures that will support a culture of innovation as a means to accelerate economic growth and development.

What used to take years in terms of research and development of new technologies now happen in months due to necessity.

Business firms, which a year ago frowned on the option of telecommuting or working from home, made room for a hybrid working model with employees spending some days working from home and some in the office.

Highly advanced office operations, such as those of multinational technology firms, have spread out to the homes of their employees with better results, since their employees are safe and have peace of mind.

Retail establishments including malls are now threatened since physical structures are becoming redundant, with virtual stores taking over the public’s craving to shop during the lockdown period.

The challenge for government is the provision of support in terms mainly of incentives to sustain the technology leap and, at the same time, secure data privacy and safety.

Business leaders said the momentum toward the digital revolution had shifted to warp drive, which is irreversible even beyond the viral calamity.

Ride the digital wave or get smothered in the fourth industrial revolution stampede: there is no other option.

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