By Andreas Charalambous and Omiros Pissarides
Over the last decades, the shift in favour of the digital economy has been accelerating. The utilisation of software systems has enhanced the ability to exchange information in real time across the globe, with positive effects on productivity.
The importance of big data becomes evident through a quick analysis of the second most populous country on the planet. In 2000, barely 20 million Indians had access to the internet. Nowadays, with the advent and the proliferation of the 4G network, more than 550 million Indians possess a microcomputer. While in 2015, India ranked 155th on the worldwide scale of mobile broadband penetration, in 2017 it consumed more data through mobile devices than any other country. This extraordinary improvement is expected to continue.
The arrival of the pandemic contributed to overcoming a major obstacle on the way to a digital future: human resistance. Among the changes brought about by the pandemic is the massive and enforced adoption of digital technology, which appears to be functioning effectively. One of the observed radical changes concerns the possibility of remote working in contrast to the model of working from the office. Based on the traditional model that has prevailed in recent decades, employees have identical working hours and work in large open spaces. This model is effective when all workers are necessary at the same time, such as on the production line of a factory. As the work environment changes, the digital evolution at work is becoming more and more imperative due to a number of factors.
First, in modern, service-oriented economies, collaboration requires teamwork, mainly of an intellectual nature, which is best served by email, group chats and teleconferencing.
Second, the new model allows for routine meetings to be organised on virtual platforms while conferences that require networking, deepening relationships, or direct interaction and/or entertainment can take place live. This hybrid approach improves productivity and enhances the weight of select interpersonal encounters.
Third, the digitalisation of work is expected to have a positive impact on the environment, since it will lead to a bulk reduction in the use of cars and airplanes for transportation to and from work and meetings.
Fourth, the use of technology increases efficiency. In the medical sector, for example, the advantages of technology are already visible, through the possibility of faster and more accurate diagnoses leading to less inconvenience and lower costs for patients. By 2021, Americans will have had more than one billion digital interactions with physicians, freeing up valuable time and resources to deal with the most serious cases.
Ultimately, the future of work seems to be intertwined with digital advancement. In Cyprus, we must adapt to the new emerging environment and take coordinated and firm action with a view to channel sufficient public and private resources towards digitalisation, thus enhancing the resilience and competitiveness of our economy.
Andreas Charalambous is an economist and a former director at the Ministry of Finance. Omiros Pissarides is the managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Investment Services