When we reached out to digitalswitzerland members to find out how they were responding to the COVID-19 crisis, we were overwhelmed by the range of positive impact stories. From small but significant tweaks to the daily business, to shifts that will bring lasting benefits, the measures adopted demonstrate Switzerland’s flexibility, adaptability and digital capability.

So far in this series, PwC, the University of St. Gallen and IMD have shared some of the ways they’ve responded to the crisis with innovative thinking and digital technologies. World Vision and Salesforce told us how they’re making a difference in communities around the world. And Heads! International and Daimler explained how they turned adversity into opportunity. As we emerge from the acute phase of the crisis, we explore how some of our other members’ innovation efforts could support a new normal.

Beyond “business as usual”

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) strives to be at the intersection of technology and human service. Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the company has helped hundreds of thousands of travellers with rebooking, cancellations, refunds and repatriation. As people begin to cross borders again, there will be a ‘new normal’, with an expectation for disruption and uncertainty. GBT has been helping clients gain visibility on forward bookings by proactively pulling data, identifying and communicating with clients and their travellers that need support. This will continue as travel returns and companies will want to closely monitor travel plans and analyse the impact of travel on budgets, cashflow and planning.

Promoting digital innovation

The ZHAW University of Applied Sciences switched seamlessly to digital teaching during the coronavirus crisis. To support planning certainty and protect student and staff health, the university has moved all teaching online until 31 July 2020. ZHAW has underlined its commitment to innovation by pledging CHF 500,000 from its Digital Futures Fund (DFF) to support projects that provide a greater overall benefit during the pandemic. From over 109 applications, ZHAW digital selected 27 proposals in digital transformation at the ZHAW as well as externally. Some of the projects address immediate concerns such as ways to host events digitally. Others support a longer-term collaboration and networking within the ZHAW digital community.

Importance of infrastructure

Besides an innovative mindset and willingness to adapt, a strong digital infrastructure is more important than ever in the post-pandemic world. As an important pioneer of technology around the world, Huawei implemented many innovative solutions from the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Many of the solutions to fight the pandemic in China used 5G to enable AI-powered services. Use cases cover various different scenarios, from comprehensive telemedicine and remotely controlled medical equipment, to unmanned spraying devices – so collaboration with other expert partners is important.

Outlook

Despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, our members have embraced digital opportunities to adapt to life in lockdown, maintain business operations and support staff and customers. If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that collaboration and communication powered by digital enablers are a powerful mix. In a post-pandemic world, we’ll be ready for whatever comes next.

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Author Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director digitalswitzerland

Managing Director

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