THERE are few positives to be gleaned from the current crisis we all find ourselves in. Quite apart from the worry over our own health and that of our friends and family, the economic fallout is inevitable and many businesses are going to struggle to navigate the choppy waters, even after the lockdown has been lifted. However, there are some positives, and digital holds the key to many of these.
Firstly, businesses – even those who were reluctant adopters – have been forced to embrace digital solutions to keep themselves operating. You might wonder what the positive is in that.
It is this. While remote working, virtual meetings and digital identities might all be critical right now to get through the crisis, they will also help businesses to be more efficient and environmentally friendly in the future.
I have already seen comments from some business owners who are starting to question the need for so much expensive prime office space now that they have seen how efficiently their teams are working from their homes.
While I think many people will want to get back to the office and the company of their colleagues, those who want flexible working arrangements in order to look after children, for example, will hopefully find it easier to get agreement. It might also reduce the rush-hour traffic for the rest of us.
There were businesses which were reluctant to go digital in their operations, preferring to stick to what others would perhaps see as inefficient and outdated modes of working but this may partly have been down to fear – that technology is complicated and hard to use – and that the costs are prohibitive.
If there is one thing people will have learned from this, it is that those two fears are unfounded. There are plenty of cost-effective, easy-to-use digital solutions that will propel your business forward, and allow you to focus on what you do best.
There is another benefit that I see coming out of all this, and that is online learning. While Generation Z might have already been comfortable with getting their information and lessons online, not everyone else was. As schools have had to close, and parents are left to work from home with children using online learning tools, it has opened many people’s eyes to the possibilities. Digital learning isn’t just for kids. We can all use it to benefit ourselves individually, and to benefit our businesses.
Our own Digital Jersey Academy has gone online for students, and Daniel and Susana Rowles, who developed our Digital Leadership Programme, have generously made their online training portal, Target Internet, free for a while so that people can learn new digital marketing skills while staying safe at home. More information about this is available from Targetinternet.com/free.
In addition, our head of academy, Rory Steel, has been putting together a series of short lessons which will help teach you the best practices for video conferencing. These are available on our YouTube channel – youtube.com/user/DigitalJerseyLtd.
While we do all miss the face-to-face gatherings, being able to video call people has, in some ways, brought communities closer. In our home, we are holding virtual meet-ups and quiz nights with friends who we haven’t seen much in years, and so many more people have been introduced to the easy-to-use and often free technology which enables these virtual get-togethers. Digital helps us all connect.
We at Digital Jersey have been working hard to support everyone in the Island during this crisis. Supporting the telecoms operators to offer a free 1GB upgrade to all customers, and broadband to any school child who did not currently have access, has been a really fulfilling role for us. As too has been enabling Soulgenic’s excellent fitness and wellness app to be available through Jersey Sport to everyone for the next few months, so that we don’t all turn into couch potatoes by the time this crisis ends.
Plus, in addition to our work with government on the technology response to Covid-19, we have made £30k available to digital businesses who are developing tech solutions that will help our community through this crisis. Many tech firms are rising to the challenge and we have been collating the services and solutions on our website at digital.je/connected-jersey.
Digital can be a power for good for everyone, not just for the duration of this crisis, but beyond. We can use it to connect and to do business, and it can help protect our environment as well as improve our social and business lives. Let’s make sure we see some positive changes come out of these difficult times.