THE COVID-19 pandemic has brought massive and unexpected life twists, but it did not grind everything to a halt. While it is true the coronavirus has caused catastrophic health, social and economic effects, we are still fortunate that technology has advanced so much that we can continue communicating and working with one another, albeit only virtually.
Although some were slow to adapt to the new normal at first, by the time strict lockdowns were put in place, many people and organizations had stepped up and quickly shifted to work-from-home frameworks. For that, we have to thank the internet’s early foundation and the high-tech organizations that have silently kept the worldwide web running even as online traffic from corporate to home networks increases considerably and asymmetrically.
The pandemic has shown just how internet consumption can change drastically — even overnight. According to our estimates, stay-at-home orders, compounded with increased dependence on digital services for both entertainment (for example, site streaming) and work (for example, videoconferencing), have led to a 20% surge in total internet usage. Vodafone, a telecommunications company in Europe, has recorded as much as a 50% increase in internet traffic. Rising internet consumption has brought about Twitter’s #SwitchToStandard initiative to restrain streaming quality and avoid network congestion. Although internet traffic might have declined in urban areas and main business hubs, it has increased disproportionately elsewhere, resulting in widespread internet blackouts across more spread out residential areas and suburbs. However, even in those areas, internet access sprang back after a short period of downtime.
The answer to this question is simple: The internet was constructed at the outset to withstand stresses — both foreseen and unforeseen — beginning with its Advanced Research Projects Agency Network days when the U.S. military was its first user. As such, the network needed to be as immune to attacks and downtime as possible. In a sense, it was well ahead of its time because it was not prone to single points of failure, bringing the entire system down, unlike the traditional communication channels at the time.
Soon after a prototype of the internet was developed, several U.S. colleges began using it to share information and enable communication between computer studies departments. Over time, businesses and home users enjoyed the system’s benefits.
The Clinton administration privatized the system by establishing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to formally take responsibility for developing policies, frameworks and standards for the internet. ICANN’s primary mandate was to ensure the global network remained secure, stable, resilient and accessible at all times from anywhere. To fulfill this goal, ICANN regulates internet domain name registries by subjecting them to strict compliance requirements, which include 100% availability.
Today, we readily enjoy the internet’s ability to enable globalization. Even if users in one country suffer from server issues, they can still stay connected; should that country’s systems fail, servers or datacenters from other locations are available immediately to take over.
How can companies effectively use the internet right now?
We cannot deny the internet’s role in keeping our businesses and personal lives going amid the global pandemic crisis, a testament to the hard work numerous companies have put in to maintain its stability and reliability.
Businesses with a strong online presence understand how effective and necessary the internet is. Even so, as early adopters become used to the ease of connectivity that the network provides, it’s important to not take for granted the effort that goes on behind the scenes. Additionally, latecomers need to realize that moving forward means transitioning to an online business model to flourish. The digital transformation will not happen overnight; however, while the less tech-savvy get up to speed, today’s practical business owners and managers can be rest assured that the infrastructure they need will not fail them.
Digital transformation varies greatly between different companies, but in a nutshell, any successful strategy needs to adhere to a number of core principles:
1. Follow a clearly defined vision, focused on the customers’ needs and shared by the whole team.
2. The C-suite needs to take the lead in ensuring that the path to that vision balances the needs of the company, its staff, its shareholders and the wider community, as well as deciding what considerations should be embedded into every business decision.
3. Be backed with the necessary infrastructure, technology, resources and expertise, either developed in-house, through partners or acquired.
4. Transform both internal and external processes and practices.
5. Create a supportive environment and culture for constant innovation, aimed at revolutionizing the customer experience and unlocking new business opportunities and models.
What can we expect moving forward?
While we can expect COVID-19 to continue changing the way we use and rely on the internet, the prevalence of digital technologies and connected devices will continue helping organizations remain afloat, an unthinkable feat 20 years ago. In a post-COVID-19 world, many companies will likely continue operating remotely to reduce real estate costs and boost productivity. After all, why would a company require employees to commute for hours when they could use that time more efficiently?
The remote work trend began well before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has accelerated it multifold. The work-from-home model opens expansive opportunities for economic growth, global talent recruitment, job creation and, eventually, improved human prosperity and well-being. However, the inherent risk of this model is that those who are not able to access the internet (today, approximately half of the world’s population) will be even more disenfranchised than before, and the issue of universal internet access will become even more important than it is now.
After 2020, there is hardly a chance we will ever return to doing business the old-fashioned way. Like it or not, the Great Reset is real, and it is happening right now in front of our eyes. Let us make sure that it brings about a better, happier and fairer world for everyone.
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