Is the “digital divide” widening during the pandemic?
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

To say we’re living in unprecedented times would be an understatement. But researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) have pulled out the data to officially understand how business leaders are navigating the current “disruption” to the way we work (namely, pandemic-related decentralization) and the role of digital technologies in providing short- and long-term solutions.

When comparing the COVID-19 crisis response to the measures taken during the economic downturns of 2000-2003 and 2008-2009, LSE researchers identified four overarching scenarios (or really approaches) that played out broadly during each period: Sweat the assets, Underpin today’s business, Slow the strategy and Adapt strategy and build resilience.

Understandably, there was as large contingent of businesses (30 percent) who fell into the Sweat the assets category – defined as maintaining the status quo, pushing staff to work harder, shelving IT investments and outsourcing – during the COVID-19 crisis simply because many office closures happened with little to no prep.

Similarly, the largest contingent of workers (35 percent) fell into the Underpin today’s business category, which called for limited technology spend to support the primary goal of retaining and recruiting customers at minimal cost.

But as the researchers explained, the businesses who didn’t make digital transformation (and budgeting for it) a priority at the start of the pandemic risk paying significant consequences in the years to come.

“In the recovery, organisations will emerge more technologised than ever before, but some will be much better placed competitively than others, perhaps irreversibly so, partly because of their technology policies before and during the crisis, and their good luck in being in the right sector at the right time,” the LSE researchers note. “In this respect, the COVID-19 period may turn out as a significant turning point in the history of corporate digital transformation, exacerbating a pre-existing digital divide.”

Slow the strategy (maintain the planned technology investments, but at a more adaptable pace) was adopted by 20 percent of organizations, while only 15 percent went all-in on the Adapt strategy and build resilience approach, which called for teams to immediately invest in new technology and staff to ride out the crisis and come out the other side stronger.

Despite the variable approach to transforming their business’ overall digital strategy in response to the pandemic, more than 50 percent of respondents did acknowledge that their company had adopted digital solutions during the pandemic that leaders were “previously hesitant to embrace.” So while some business leaders may be more apprehensive about digital transformation than others, there’s a clear trend indicating that next-generation technological solutions will be important in separating the business “winners” from the “losers” in a post-COVID-19 world.

With users logging onto the network from all over the map—even with some organizations planning a return to the office in waves over the coming year—adopting new technologies will require enterprise IT teams to have visibility into network environments that they don’t inherently have visibility into or control over to ensure successful deployment.


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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: network management , network performance monitoring , network monitoring , enterprise WAN , enterprise network , remote workforce , remote work , quarantine , COVID 19 , pandemic , digital divide , digital transformation , enterprise IT