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Digital transformation core to coronavirus recovery

Out-Law News | 30 Apr 2020 | 9:29 am | 2 min. read

Businesses will look to digital transformation to build future resilience in light of the coronavirus pandemic, a technology law expert has said.

Andreas Carney of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said that the link between a business' technology and its operational resilience has been brought into sharp focus during the current public health emergency and that this could spur increased investment in digital projects.

Carney said: "The arrival and spread of Covid-19 saw an unprecedented reliance on technology and data services, with businesses seeking to enable remote working where possible to minimise the impact. Relatively niche communications and technology platforms became household names overnight."

"The initial emphasis was on crisis management and business continuity and many businesses had to shore up their IT capacity and capability in a reactive way. Now businesses will be looking ahead to the steps they need to take for a return to work and ways to make their business more resilient. This is likely to become a priority in digital transformation programmes, and may prompt more investment in those programmes in response to what's been learned over recent months. Alongside this, compliance functions may play a more central role in those programmes as they assess implications arising from recent experiences, such as risk points relating to confidentiality, data protection and governance," he said.

Digital transformation has been identified as a cornerstone of economic recovery from Covid-19 by EU policymakers.

"The green transition and the digital transformation will play a central and priority role in relaunching and modernising our economy," the European Commission and European Council said in their joint 'roadmap to recovery'. "Investing in clean and digital technologies and capacities, together with a circular economy, will help create jobs and growth and allow Europe to make the most of the first-mover advantage in the global race to recovery. It will also help make us more resilient and less dependent by diversifying our key supply chains."

"The impact of investment is likely to be felt at all levels of the digital and data ecosystem. This might involve rebuilding the data supply chain, from data centres to data-led solutions. Ultimately this could prompt business to re-examine their business strategy, become more data driven, look more closely at data sharing solutions, and investigate the benefits of emerging technologies like edge computing," Carney said.

Carney said the roadmap provides a macro view from the Commission and Council as to what recovery on a Europe wide basis may look like. He said it addresses the need for a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment that will help countries in the EU relaunch and transform their economies.

"The goal is not just to bring economies to where they were, but to transform them," Carney said. "This moment is being seen by the policymakers as an opportunity to invest to achieve a more resilient, sustainable and fair Europe."

According to the Commission and Council, the EU recovery plan must be based on "solidarity, cohesion and convergence" and deliver "a level playing field for all", with "a functioning single market [that] is beneficial to all EU citizens".

Carney said the language reflects core objectives that are not new to the EU.

"The legacy of the impact of the epidemic in the long run may be to reinvigorate these objectives following a number of years of uncertainty from the likes of Brexit and other issues that have challenged those objectives," Carney said.

The Commission and Council likened the type of investment needed to support economic modernisation and recovery from Covid-19 to the Marshall Plan, a US-led initiative that delivered billions of dollars of support to the economies of Western European countries in the aftermath of World War Two.

"This should be a coordinated effort drawing on public investment at European and national levels and on mobilising private investment," the roadmap said. "It should be targeted on our commonly agreed objectives and on where it is most needed. This means investing massively in the green and digital transitions and the circular economy, alongside other policies such as cohesion and the common agricultural policy."