In the early, ambiguous days of the COVID-19 outbreak, the global community had little time to strategize. Soon after, the pandemic disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives.

Today, however, we are armed with hard-won experience and learning. COVID has materialised as a mega-catalyst for change, and it offers companies and countries the opportunity to rethink how things are done for the future — and to use digital technologies for the betterment of businesses, economies, and societies at large.

Companies need the right digital capabilities to solve tomorrow’s problems

The pandemic has made clear that whatever can be delivered digitally, must be delivered digitally. This means companies must not only embrace digital transformation, but also build digital resilience to be prepared for tomorrow’s next big challenges, whatever they may be.

The move to cloud, which was already accelerating pre-pandemic, has become even more critical since COVID, as organisations continue to build-out virtual operations, and applications have become the lifeline for companies, their workforces, and their customers. But a cloud-only strategy won’t meet the future needs of all organizations. Many will look to balance their infrastructure requirements between what they hold on premise and in the cloud. That means they will also need to effectively manage their multi-cloud environment for workload optimization, secure connectivity, policy, threat protection and response.

Another major shift companies will have to address is the hybrid future of work. While some may be longing for a return to office life, it is unlikely we will see workforces go back to pre-pandemic Monday- to-Friday on-site. We recently commissioned a study on the workforce of the future that found 88 percent of employees surveyed across Asia Pacific favoured a blend of office-based and remote work.

The hybrid future of work, where employees move between the office and home (and other secure locations) requires a new set of digital capabilities that enables an engaged and productive workforce and safer, intelligent workplaces. As well as the best, highly secure collaboration experiences, these smart work environments will be transformed with automation, insights, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Businesses are also looking to leverage the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to boost their growth. The 4IR is characterized by an intelligent and connected ecosystem of people and machines, underpinned by key emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), AI, 3D printing, advanced robotics and wearables. But these technologies will only be as good as their underlying connectivity. This means the need for faster deployment and adoption of technology capabilities offered by 5G and WiFi6 will be critical. Take for example, Machine to Machine (M2M) communications which will power smart factories. This requires low latency, security, and the ability for machines to connect without draining too much power. 5G technology offers that possibility. Similarly, to unlock the full potential of IoT, the right combination of secure connectivity, compute power, and data analytics capabilities at the Edge is essential.

The overall success of these digital trends hinges on cybersecurity and the ability to protect against malicious threats. Hackers are getting more sophisticated and are targeting critical infrastructure both at a company and country level. We hear about cyberattacks regularly and know the damage they can cause. The recent news about a hacker trying to poison a public water supply system in Florida is a stark reminder of what’s at stake. Not surprisingly, many countries are adding “cyber” as a key element of their defence capabilities.

Partnerships will help countries drive an inclusive pandemic recovery

Countries, too, are revaluating their strategies for the future, to create better long-term economic and social opportunities, and ultimately a better quality of life for their citizens. To succeed, this will take the collective power of partnerships — among businesses, governments, industries, academia and more. Bringing together diverse thinking, expertise, and capabilities is how we will create new possibilities and drive true innovation. And during the pandemic, we’ve seen first-hand technology’s role in providing mission-essential connectivity to solve urgent problems, in everything from healthcare and education, to protecting the environment and keeping economies afloat.

At Cisco we are committed to playing our part in helping countries recover from the pandemic and thrive and innovate for the future. Our recently announced collaboration with the government of Japan is an example of this, which includes mass-scale digitization projects to support an inclusive pandemic recovery for the country. It is aligned to Japan’s Society 5.0 vision to fast-track digitization across industry verticals and sectors, including government, education, healthcare and business, with initiatives aimed at building a digitally inclusive society, a more resilient economy, and the workforce of the future.

This collaboration is part of Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Program, where we partner with national, state, and local governments in 40 countries around the world. The focus is on co-developing cutting-edge solutions and delivering beneficial services to citizens faster and more effectively. There are over 900 active or completed CDA projects across the globe, in countries including Australia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and many more.

Having lived in Japan for the past three years, I am personally thrilled to see this initiative take shape. As the world’s third largest, and one of its most developed economies, Japan has an opportunity to usher in a new era of growth. I am confident we can bring a unique perspective and proven solutions to help Japan realise their national digital agenda, to enhance economic growth, raise the quality of life, and create a society where everyone can fully reap the benefits of digital transformation.

Despite all the disruption and devastation, the pandemic has opened an opportunity to rethink what the future looks like. In this critical moment in time, companies and countries can aim to achieve new levels of technology-inspired innovation to drive growth for years to come.



Dave West


Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China