Digital is the new real after the sudden ordeal that has befallen us. The quarantine stress test has shown that we have already entered the digital world, forcing us to make the most out of all the functionalities currently at our disposal. And most importantly, business, education, and administration, alike, demonstrated how they could successfully work remotely.
The coronavirus played the role of a shock accelerator for processes that we would have been, otherwise, slowly approaching. The threat to our health has put healthy pressure on us to be more comfortable with the digital reality and to start living in it.
As it seems, there is no way back. From now on, we will have to skillfully combine the benefits of physical and digital connectivity after the "invisible enemy" forced us to change our thinking, as well as our way of life, work, study, and interaction. Beyond the barriers and obstacles, new horizons are already visible.
Three entrepreneurs share their views on the accelerated digitalization and the changes it is causing.
We are participating in the largest social experiment
The new winners are not those who can work remotely, but those whose customers are able to adapt to the situation
Georgi Kissiov is the technical director and deputy manager of Risk Electronics
-The pandemic, as a test of our overall ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances, has shown that we must be very adaptable and quick. A number of businesses have turned to digitalization to do their current work. From this sudden test, we learned that our digital readiness is much greater than we thought.
-The digital work and education environment is available. Children are most prepared for it and everyone else has to catch up with them. There are certainly things that need to be improved, but there is no longer any doubt that this will happen. An irreversible process of digital transformation has been activated at every level of our daily lives.
-The long-term shock acceleration of digitalization is inevitable after COVID-19. The ones who do not participate in the acceleration, would not be able to fulfill their commitments qualitatively and on time, or simply would not work. From now on, digitization must happen as we go. There are many examples of shock changes in human history. Every step in the technological revolution removes people and replaces them by machines. Today everything is changing very fast, and at the moment we are participating in the largest social experiment of our time. It is yet to be analyzed. Digitalization has already secured a leading role - both during and after the pandemic.
-The big winners are not those who can just work remotely, but those whose customers are able to adapt to the new situation. No clients means no projects and no business.
-Risk Electronics started operating remotely five years ago. Therefore, we were well prepared to continue fulfilling our commitments outside the office. What is interesting to note is that the team performance has increased by more than 15 percent. The platform that we integrated 5 years ago - Bitrix24, contributed to that. Not only does it manage workflows, it also creates social connections between employees, just like a corporate Facebook. It is clear to everyone that people need social contacts with their colleagues, which is one of the benefits of the platform in question. In addition, Bitrix24 provides a structured and simplified view of the entire workflow, something that every manager needs right now.
-The long-term perspectives of tomorrow have lost their value. Today my plans and vision extend only a few days into the future. The unexpected pandemic came as a reminder that nothing is eternal. We are seeing sustainable businesses just disappear. But there is also something positive about the layers shifting - people who know and can, who are entrepreneurial, they will still succeed. It's more demotivating if you know that is the status quo and nothing will ever change. At Risk Electronics, the spirit is high and we have more work to do than before the pandemic. It played the role of a virtual team building, in which people became more integrated. The pandemic did not only take something away from us, but also gave us opportunities.
-A lesson to remember: The concept of "stable business" does not exist. The modern understanding of "success" is refracted through its ability to transform and adapt to the situation.
A boom in automation and digitization is about to happen
Aggressive investments in innovation and new products are expected, as well as accelerated development of applied science
Iliya Krastev is the Chairman of the Association for Innovation, Business Excellence, Services and Technology (AIBEST) and the Executive Director of A Data Pro
-The pandemic as a trial of our digital abilities has proved to be a test with very good results. Bulgaria has shown that it is ready to be part of the digital society and the business is showing flexibility and speed.
-From AIBEST's point of view, the digital environment for work and training is a mandatory prerequisite for the development of the economy and social systems.
-Weaknesses that AIBEST member companies notice are that the political will, public sentiment and individual training of leaders, investors, entrepreneurs and employees to implement digital solutions and automation need improvement. Strategic commitment and investment in training are needed to ensure the sustainability of digitization.
-For A Data Pro doing work remotely is their everyday life, business as usual. We went into this mode quickly and stress free. This proved that we are a reliable supplier even at the moment when our international clients wanted to guarantee the continuity of their business.
-The crisis has imposed a change of thinking at all levels in our organization and has clarified our priorities. At a macro level, society needs a new social contract and new political thinking.
-Globalization as a form of connectivity increases the opportunities, but it also multiplies the negatives. Digitization enables accelerated recovery and realization of new competitive advantages. The importance of the telecommunications, technology and knowledge industries, including research and education, has been strengthened.
-I am looking forward to a future of highly educated, creative and technologically competent societies, of the technologies that drive growth, developing the ability of businesses and innovators to implement ideas that are actually important for civilization on a large-scale. I expect a refocusing of the public attention on the topics and ideas that matter to us today, the wider application of automation and the digitization of as many areas of public life as possible, in order to achieve transparency and efficiency, including in the administration.
-The world will become ever more connected. 5G, 6G, or quantum internet, people will find more and more ways to be close to each other and closer to knowledge.
-The biggest problem that emerges is the possible social upheavals and nationalist sentiment that the economic crisis, digitization and automation could provoke. New technologies, new business models will create interesting new jobs. People who fail to adapt to the requirements of today will drop out of the labor market and put strain on the exhausted health and social systems. Another problem will be the reaction of those circles whose activity will be brought into the light - because digitization creates transparency.
-Tomorrow's development: Aggressive investment in innovation, new products, business models, sectors and applied science. Commitment of the public sector and the business to sustainable and transparent development, with a complicated balance between new technologies and freedoms, with entirely new challenges and legal and ethical issues. The focus on digital connectivity today could make the world even more dynamic and unpredictable tomorrow.
We must be fully prepared for distance learning
Classroom and textbooks will not disappear, but will be complemented by digital tools
Vladimir Kolev is the manager of Klet Bulgaria Publishing House
-The stress test for the Bulgarian education, but also for the publishers of educational content has been passed successfully. Education is a conservative system that generally changes slowly. We, educational publishers, have been developing and enriching our electronic resources for decades, and until recently our main problem was the small percentage of users who used them, despite the enormous opportunities they provide. Things turned around and we had to urgently increase the capacity of our servers to withstand the load.
-Klet Bulgaria Publishing House in a state of emergency first opened all its electronic resources completely free of charge to the users, after which we were followed by other educational publishers. This step was an expression of social responsibility and empathy.
-Necessity and opening up new opportunities turned out to be a good combination. We responded very quickly, beginning to rethink on a daily basis what and how we provide to our users. We have learned to try to be as useful as possible in every situation, to give more and strengthen relationships with our clients.
-The conclusions about distance learning are that it is in itself a very complex and wide-ranging process for which there is no recipe. It all depends on the technical equipment of the respective school and students, but also on the digital literacy of the teacher. A person who is more experienced in this process and is more advanced in the digital world with less resources can produce adequate learning content. Conversely, even the latest digital content won't work. In the teaching process, with physical attendance or distance learning, the figure of the teacher is key.
-The price for these changes is high and we are yet to realize and pay it.
-Another emergency scenario that we should be prepared for: for example, to make distance learning the new "normal" school. Society is not fully ready to accept it. However, the speed and inclusiveness with which this crisis has taken place shows that anything is possible. That is why it is good to make progress in this direction as well.
-The main problem that is emerging is finding a business model in which we will create high quality educational content, but also receive a decent pay for it. People are quickly getting used to free access to electronic resources and want more and more. Content is our biggest asset, which is created in a slow, hard and expensive way. This process involves authors, editors, proofreaders, designers, artists. We expect its users to pay a fair price.
-My vision for the future is that classroom and textbooks will not disappear, but will be complemented by digital tools. The future will inevitably be digital and different from what we currently imagine.
-Education and the publishing business are inextricably linked and could not develop without each other. I believe that education will meet the challenge of intriguing and imparting knowledge in a completely different way, but we, educational publishers, will also find a way to deliver the best content in its most appropriate form while guaranteeing added value to our customers and making profit from it.