Prioritising emerging technologies to support a robust post-COVID economic recovery

COVID-19 has undoubtedly shifted business’ strategic priorities in both the short and long term. It is indisputable that digital technologies will play a crucial role in our post- COVID economic recovery. A successful recovery rests in digital transformation.

To begin, digital technology and automation have assisted the global community’s ongoing fight against the virus through infectious person tracking, drone delivery of medicine as well as through online education, e-business and remote office working.

Emerging technologies have afforded a lifeline to those on the front line of the pandemic. In spite of this, large corporations sought to dramatically slash funding for emerging technologies in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic’s onset, including in automation, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and 5G, according to a recent KMPG report.

Many companies appear to have reduced their investments in emerging technologies as a knee-jerk reaction to the revenue shocks incurred as a result of the pandemic, having begun to question their ability to provide a decent return on investment.

However, it has more recently emerged that spending on such technologies is likely to increase in the forthcoming twelve months, as the battle against the virus has accelerated opportunities surrounding digital transformation on numerous fronts.

The report in question evaluated how COVID-19 has changed the ways businesses approach emerging technologies compared with a few months ago. Well over half of executives surveyed (59%) stated that COVID-19 has brought about an urgent need to supercharge their digital transformation initiatives – with more than 80% of companies investing or planning to invest in emerging technologies.

The next 12 months will witness rising investment in areas such as 5G (a 44% increase), process automation (a 43% increase), AI (a 39% increase), hybrid cloud (a 38% increase), blockchain (a 34% increase) and edge computing (a 34% increase).

These technologies will play a pivotal role as we move towards a post-COVID digital economy that looks to increase business resiliency. And they already have – as businesses’ utmost priority has been to invest in such technologies purely for survival reasons.

That is why forward thinking investments in combined emerging technologies will help to ensure that companies are not just able to survive major future disruptions, but thrive in their immediate aftermath.

However, private sector businesses are not the only ones able to benefit from innovative emerging technologies. Developing countries have been hardest hit by the pandemic. It is imperative their governments develop their digital competencies and infrastructure to mitigate against future shocks, especially as the pandemic enters a second wave. We cannot afford to let them fall behind.

Whether it be for businesses or governments, the success of emerging technologies depends on the provision of a robust economic ecosystem capable of facilitating digital transformations that have a real impact on the ground. That is why collaboration between private and public sectors will be key as we look towards creating a technologically adept economy for a robust post-COVID society.

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