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Covid is Fuelling Innovation, But it Could Create a Two-speed Society 

Megan Hughes


Covid innovation

While technology is helping to accelerate the global recovery from Covid-19, we must ensure no-one is left behind as tech is embedded deeper into the fabric of daily life.

In the space of a few months, so much has changed. The optimist will see the positives. Covid has fuelled innovation and there is a momentum that must, and can, be maintained.

But the level of disruption alongside the speed of transformation, brought about in no small way by the adoption of new technology, has consequences. If we are to truly “build back better,” we must use our ingenuity to ensure that no one is left behind.

The impact of the pandemic has been profound, but the response from businesses has been equally so. Companies have adapted with new products and services, new operating models and new ways of working. New applications of old products, new partnerships and adaptations of services and workspaces have been introduced widely and to great effect.

Those that could invested in new technologies, enabling their entire workforce to work virtually by switching to digital collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom from home offices.

Over and above this, they began using these platforms to engage with their consumers, partners or patients. We’ve even adapted to virtual concerts, exercise classes, digital books, virtual courses, museum tours, opera and theatre streaming.

The dawn of the Covid innovation era

I share all the excitement of the new, however, change can be a challenge that’s overwhelming for some. There is a need for new skills to access, use and maximise the new technologies coming to the fore. We risk allowing the pace of technology advance to outstrip our capacity to keep up and capitalise on the new efficiencies and opportunities it is usually designed to deliver.

Targeted investment in tech skills training and development is now essential.

How we build relevant and accessible technology learning, therefore, is a critical factor in economic recovery. Throughout the education sector, teachers have promptly collaborated and developed virtual lessons while a number of companies, Accenture included, have offered support with everything; from step-by-step coaching on building CVs through to digital and AI skills courses and career guidance.

What’s evident, however, is the potential for the skills gap to widen. We risk creating a two-speed system in which technology ‘haves’ pull away from ‘have-nots’, meaning young people leave school without the relevant employable skills, existing employees become disenfranchised and innovation is stalled.

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To avoid such a scenario, we need to address digital poverty in the round, starting with those at risk of exclusion having the right devices and connectivity. In business, it is all about working effectively from home whether using collaborative tools or techniques to keep innovation flowing.

Finding solutions in all cases is entirely possible, if we invest, collaborate, and ultimately understand how everyone – individual, employee and business – gets included.

As a society, we need to continue to push boundaries; of innovation, of the world of the possible, of how we relate to each other, even if we are miles apart, or literally not able to stand side by side.

But, where this is increasingly reliant on our understanding and use of new technology, we absolutely need to ensure we bring everyone on the same journey.

Rachel Ward, Accenture

Megan Hughes

Applied Intelligence, Accenture Strategy & Consulting

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