A brave response is needed to COVID-19

Business, technology and civic leaders must be as brave as the clinicians and carers in how they respond to a post Coronavirus world.

As we applaud the carers who have been underpaid and forgotten for the last decade by some governments, the bravery shown every day by those carers now has to be aped by those in leadership. Each and every day carers make bold decisions that are literally life and death and they do so with compassion. The post lockdown world cannot return to the early weeks of 2020. Coronavirus has been a warning message. Everyone in a leadership role or position of influence has to be as brave as the carers and with increased compassion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported last week that global debts will rise to $66 trillion, a figure that is likely to rise the longer the lockdown continues. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) deficits are also rising too. Governments around the world have, in an instant, ditched hard right policies and launched the largest lending programmes to industry in living memory. Small, but important trading deals were rapidly deployed guaranteeing vital trade routes and protecting economies from further shocks. 

As oil companies record a 66% drop in earnings, famous airlines jet about looking for rescue packages and the automotive industry is reporting a 70% brake applied to production from 2019 levels, so governments have stepped up and provided financial support.

To recover the massive funds borrowed and injected into the economy governments across the world have a unique opportunity to replatform. It is a parlance we use a great deal in the CIO and CTO communities and it has been a vital strategy for many organisations in recent years. Yet society has largely failed to replatform. Taxation in most economies is working on systems developed in the last half of the last century. Property taxation has a limited future, online was already shifting retail, entertainment and financial services. Coronavirus demonstrates that the existing society models are no longer healthy and they were not fit for purpose when the pandemic hit.

Attitudes are already changing, but the pandemic will drastically shift behaviour patterns. France's President Macron recently told the Financial Times, citizens will not want a return to breathing dirty tainted air after the clean air and car free streets of the lockdown. Across the world rivers have run cleaner and nature has returned to where it was bullied out by unsustainable "growth". Carbon taxes have been accused of being too complex, but in truth they were just unpalatable to sectors that, until a tiny virus hit them, were growing. Now is the time to replatform taxation to reflect the damage these sectors do to the environment by realistically taxing usage.

But this bravery is about more than a new tax code - business and technology leaders need to use the lockdown to reflect on the values of their organisations and management styles. Employees up and down the land are reflecting on the hours of discomfort suffered in traffic jams or crammed into underfunded public transport. Skilled team members are realising how little time they spend with loved ones, and as we clap, we are all aware that society is not rewarding the most deserving. 

While the IMF is worried about GDP deficit, it and all of us should consider whether in a post COVID-19 world, GDP is the measuring stick to be used? GDP doesn't accurately record that charities are picking up a shortfall in basic care services, or gauge the criticality of a milk delivery driver or shelf stacking single mum. Before the pandemic, the CIO forums I take part in regularly featured the importance of purpose. When the lockdown ends, purpose will have moved from a fuzzy ‘nice to have' to ‘vital'.

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