The Great Shift to the Digital Economy – World Tossed into the Future

By Leonard Nhlapo

It has been widely anticipated that 50 percent of the world population including workforce and business will be working and operating in the digital economy or the ‘Gig economy’ by 2030.

The recent outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus) resulting in many countries shutting down movements we are seeing almost the entire world turning to digital technology or the gig economy to continue operating and flowing.

Just a few weeks ago we have been meeting in boardrooms dressed-up in cooperate outfits. These days we meet in t-shirts, sweaters or pyjamas via digital platforms from our respective lounges, study-rooms or any room where there is a strong network signal.

For many freelancers who get by with data and a computer in the gig economy, this is never a problem because you just put-up where you are and get on with it.

Millions of professionals, students and schoolchildren will have to join this group to perform their tasks with these same resources.Up to recently, the gig economy has been understood as a system of freelancing where skills are sold on a project basis on online work sites such as Upwork, and many more.

Thanks to COVID-19, the gig economy is becoming more relevant and there will surely be a great big switch to the gig economy. This will have a drastic impact on the way organizations interact with their staff, suppliers, and clients.Challenging the dull corporate structures
The value of digital channels, products, and operations is now obvious to organizations everywhere.

This is a wake-up call to those who have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital solutions for long term resilience.This event more than any shows that organizations, businesses, schools, even government departments meetings, and processes should have been digitized by now.

We live in a global world, where business can be done anywhere, and interaction needs to be fast and user-friendly to the point where it is easy for anyone to interact and communicate. Meetings no longer need to be face-to-face, nor does customer interaction.

Businesses and organizations have begun shutting down and sending employees to work from home in the hopes to stop the spread of the virus and flatten the curve of impact. In the ideal digital world, this should have minimal impact on a business because much can be done with a computer and a phone.

Many people already operate from home, at any desk-hire facility or any of the many WiFi zones around the country. The technology and solutions are already available, even doctors can diagnose and prescribe remotely there are already apps doing that.Switching to a digitally-enabled organization doesn’t have to involve a complete re-engineering of business processes; rather it is an integration of the existing business processes with digital technology.Set-up and running costs are minimal. This will go a long way to cutting costs and putting much-needed funds back into the business or economy.

Digital technology benefits

Leveraging technology and digitally-enabled processes will allow organizations to continue as usual and have the resilience to continue despite future economic threats and challenges similar to this COVID-19 outbreak and keep their companies running in the long term.The number of people using digital technology to conduct activities has surged over the years.

There are 5.1 billion unique mobile users in the world, 4.5 billion internet users, and 3.8 billion social media users.This indicates that there are billions of people who are comfortable using digital technology.

This could help a number of start-ups, small businesses or organization find cost-effective and efficient ways to conduct business and access new markets.

The number of internet users grows at an accelerated rate year on year since 2010. Internet users are growing at a rate of more than 11 new users per second, which results in a total of one million new users each day.The gig economy has proven its enormous importance in recent times.

It is estimated to be worth as much as $4 trillion on a global level, with a growth trend that promises an even larger share in the future.

In 2018 alone, the gig economy freelancers contributed as much as $1.28 trillion to the US economy, and $3.7 trillion to the global economy.

Challenges blocking quick digital adoption

Most of the leadership, management and key decision making positions in many organizations are occupied by people above the age of 50 (Baby Boomers & Generation X).

This is a generation that has become accustomed to conducting business in the old ways and is also skeptical of digital technology benefits; which also makes it hard for them to quickly adapt to fast-evolving digital technology.

And of those that understand the benefits digital technology can bring to businesses and organisations operations do not know how to have a clear plan on how to properly integrate digitally-enabled processes into business functions or develop operation modules aligned to take advantage of opportunities continuously presented by the digital technology.

Digital resources for use

Listed below are some of the best platforms and application many people who find themselves locked-down (or quarantined) in their homes can access free to continue with some the functions:

Every year thousands of platforms and applications are created to help organizations, businesses, and individuals conduct various activities.

In Conclusion

One thing that this situation reveals is that stability is never a given.Organizations, businesses, governments, institutions, and individuals need to take themselves out of their comfort zone and fully embrace appropriate technology or digital solutions to survive going forward.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Famous words by Charles Darwin

About the Author:

Nhlanhla Leonard Nhlapo is an entrepreneur, economist, and digital transformation specialist. He is also a project manager at the University of the Western Cape ‘CoLab’ for Digital Inclusion & Social Innovation. Specializes in creating and facilitating digital transformation courses and programs that help grow community members, organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs to make most of technology and improve socio-economic position using digital technology.

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