COVID-19: A Wake-Up Call For The Global Village

Farjeel Javed

On December 31, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), an infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in Wuhan, China. Since then, it has affected over 100,000 people worldwide, resulting in a global panic reaction that has paralyzed, crunched, and disrupted the economy.

Travel restrictions and a general sense of caution in travel, gatherings, and events have led to the temporary closure of restaurants, malls, outlets, and movie theatres, thereby slamming the service industry. Vacant hotels, canceled flights, and closed tourist sites have adversely affected global tourism, with an estimated loss of US$80 billion in revenue for the tourism industry. And the global automotive industry fears the worst since many of its operations are dependent on parts and motors manufactured in China’s “Auto Hub” of Wuhan where COVID-19 originated.

COVID-19 has also turned out to be a nightmare for the fashion industry because China, as a cheap manufacturer and supplier for the textile industry, is the industry’s backbone. The same is true for the pharmaceutical industry, which is heavily dependent on raw material coming out of China, and may experience supply shortages in the near future. Even the tech industry can’t stay out of it, as COVID-19 has pushed tech giants, including Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Tesla, and Google, to shut down their offices, manufacturing facilities, and retail stores across China.

In short, the global supply chain disruption is multi-sectoral and extends far beyond the boundaries of any country, ethnicity, race, religion, or culture. Does this mean that we are heading toward a “COVID-19 recession”? If so, who is to blame? Is this happening because we all rush toward cheap manufacturing without considering the long-term risks? Is this a consequence of aggressively pursuing globalization without carefully examining its implications and meticulously planning for it?

As the world now waits for the development and rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine to control and prevent further spread of the disease, we must also think about the ways we can prevent such massive economic disruptions in the future. Among other things, the spread of COVID-19 has shown that the industries that have gone digital in their operations are not suffering as much as their peers.

For example, educational organizations that moved from traditional teaching to online instruction have seen less effect on their attendance and participation during the outbreak of the virus. Manufacturing industries that moved away from traditional, human-faced assembly and production lines to robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and IoT are having fewer interrupted operations compared to others. Tech-enabled retail stores like Amazon and Ali Baba are facing lower drops in their sales compared to their competitors operating from malls and shopping strips.

It is also interesting to see that the companies that have digitized their procurement operations using e-procurement solutions can work more smoothly. Digital HRM solutions enable their employees to stay connected and productive. Meanwhile, digitalized asset and inventory management solutions help them stay informed for better decision-making in these tough times.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak calls for re-strategizing supply-chain mechanisms and introducing supply-chain security. Digitizing is one solution that can help in safely managing and streamlining operations, especially when coupled with other solutions like establishing multiple manufacturing hubs across the globe working together like a mesh of arteries pumping the heart.

While there is no doubt that free trade and movement are the main tools for development, the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us that we cannot ignore the hidden risk in putting all our eggs in one basket.

Examine the “10 Rules Of Digital Transformation.”


Farjeel Javed

About Farjeel Javed

Farjeel Javed is the Senior Advisor for Digital Transformation and Smart Governance at SAP. As a technologist and digital transformation leader with more than 16 years of ICT industry experience in the public sector, he helps governments run simple and improve the lives of their citizens through technology. Farjeel has significant expertise in formulating and leading national digital transformation strategies, policies, frameworks, road maps, value propositions, digital and experience economy drivers, and business benchmarking. Please follow Farjeel on Twitter @farjeel, LinkedIn, or contact him at farjeel.javed@sap.com.