Great Britain

Virus has fast-tracked digital economy - Bradford University expert

THE coronavirus pandemic will change the way businesses and individuals work forever, says a University of Bradford professor.

Sankar Sivarajah, Professor of Technology Management and Circular Economy and acting head of the school of management in the Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences, is an expert in evaluating the use of digital technology by organisations.

He said the coronavirus outbreak had caused many businesses to reconsider how they use technology.

“We have seen a rapid transition to web-based platforms as a result of the outbreak,” he said. “One example of this has been how the university itself has embraced web-based learning, a process which would normally have taken about two years to implement but which has in fact been completed in just two weeks.

“Other businesses are also rapidly looking at different ways in which to engage with their customers. We have seen restaurants and pubs switching to a ‘take-out’ model, while others are now making much more use of cloud computing platforms.”

Prof Sivarajah cited the university’s creation of a ‘virtual campus’, with weekly mindfulness sessions, virtual gym classes, store cupboard cooking tips and recipes and a virtual University of Bradford book club.

“In a way, this virus has fast-tracked what we might call the sharing economy and the digital economy. What this shows is in some cases, change is about our culture and traditions and that sometimes our behaviour creates boundaries. During normal circumstances, people tend not to think about alternative methods but what this has shown is there are new, creative ways to engage with people.

“It’s created difficult circumstances for small businesses but also created a roadmap for those wanting to move into the digital economy. Now is the time to think very creatively and create new pathways. There are opportunities there to think about how businesses deliver a service.”

Prof Sivarajah said that despite the present difficulties, there was a silver lining to the crisis in terms of businesses learning to survive.

He added: “This crisis is testing the resilience of businesses small and large and new ways of working are going to come out of that. Most supply chains are built to be efficient but we kind of forget about resilience. A good example is online food shopping and the outage of Ocado, a pioneering online supermarket which was suspended for a period of time due shoppers panic buying. Some of those services have seen a rapid demand in the last few weeks and it’s taken time for them to adapt. We will all be changed by this common experience but in some ways for the better.”

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