2020 will be the year all of us will never forget. It will be also the year that exposed numerous hidden conflicts and amplified the familiar ones.
The global communications infrastructure proved to be more important than we ever imagined. Our industry was lucky to enjoy strong demand in sharp contrast to many other segments of the economy paralyzed by COVID-19. It remains to be seen how the global economy will recover, but it is safe to predict that the world will never be the same.
Many transitions, accelerated by the pandemic, were net positive. Adoption of cloud services enabling remote health and medical services, study and work will save many of us so much time and energy for the rest of our lives. Yet millions or even billions of people are being left out.
This must be one of the most uneven economic recessions with small businesses and the lower income workers hit the hardest. Waves of shutdowns across the service sectors of the economy raised the unemployment to new record highs. Many of these small businesses may never recover, despite the government’s temporary financial support.
The economic divide widened in 2020. The digital divide is also growing.
Success of the dominant cloud companies, which raised their revenues and market valuations to the stratosphere in 2020, was well documented in the press and in several of our reports. Failures of the businesses left behind got a lot less publicity, yet a sustainable economic recovery will have to include the millions of small and mid-size businesses left behind. These companies provide employment for a majority of the world’s workers, forming an intricate tapestry of economic activity.
Future success for a majority of small and mid-size businesses will depend on whether they can cross the digital divide and take full advantage of Cloud powered innovations. It is probably too late for the large companies left on the other side of the digital divide. Many of them were downsizing before 2020 and they are gone now.
First steps taken in the recovery will be vital. Limited financial resources have to be routed to the most critical projects. Bridging the digital divide may not look like a high priority for businesses struggling to stay alive, but it must be part of the plan to ensure survival beyond 2021. Business leaders must make hard decisions today to guarantee success in the future. What the future will look like is unknown, but making an educated guess will separate the winners from the losers.
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