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In his speech on the 10th of April 2020, the prime minister spoke of the times of “new norms”- in a world where viruses can spread so easily, the way we conduct our daily lives may change for the long term.
Last night, he announced that the MCO will be further extended to the middle of May – which in turn set a new norm for Muslims facing the month of Ramadhan.
Even if the MCO is lifted soon, our life will be different. Handshakes, packed crowds or even office space may change from a cultural, economic and social perspective.
Try to imagine the world back in 1918 when the Spanish flu pandemic spread through the entire world. While quarantines, good hygiene and disinfection was used to curb the pandemic, nothing could be done from an economic standpoint when the populace is placed in isolation.
However – in this modern era, the fast connectivity and cloud communication tools has helped the economy to keep moving.
The gig economy proved essential in delivering our needs, in fact creating a larger market for new players to enter the game.
Online tools such as Google Meet and Zoom allowed us to keep meetings running, we came to terms with the concept of working from home, as opposed to the cubicle layout we have grown accustomed to.
Schools and higher learning education are resorting to online and virtual classes, and teachers are finding way to teach from home while taking care of their own children.
In line with this, MARii launched the Industry 4.0 e-Learning Centre – to allow access for the public to learn new technologies through the cloud, starting with free webinars in Augmented Reality (AR) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE).
However, there are still some gaps to fill – as we must expect that despite an eventual lifting of the MCO, our standard operating and health care procedures within our operations and utilisation of common spaces will have to change.
Firstly – office, factory and commercial layouts and workspaces need to be relooked to allow for appropriate social distancing, hygiene and work floor density. These new restrictions alter the costing calculations, operating workflow and business models of various organisations and their premises.
Second – Organisations will need to rebalance human capital requirements for on site, remote (work from home) and automated daily operations. For example, manufacturers will need to rethink their automation strategies to maintain capacities, universities will need to rate physical attendance for lab work, and executives may have to rotate between “work from home” shifts.
In fact, the two adjustments to workspaces mentioned above can be optimised using latest simulation software that can analyse human movement and space requirements, before any investment is approved for roll out.
It is clear that this shift moves beyond video calling and online conferencing – but into many aspects of life based on technology, including learning, governance, commerce, health care, etc. This would require the capabilities to deploy fast paced development of technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
A recent example of the ability to quickly adapt technologically was crucial for the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), as it had to process more than 80,000 applications from companies applying to operate during the MCO.
MARii’s system engineers worked closely with other government and private partners to develop an application system (called the CIMS 2.0) – flexible enough to adapt to the fluid policy framework for the companies to operate, yet had a simple to use front end user interface, and an intelligent administrative and processing dashboard.
We were very thankful that despite the challenges that we faced in developing and troubleshooting the system, it was done in a matter of days – typically in would take months.
All this begs the question – in the foreseeable future, how much would our survival depend on the ability to create, use and adopt technology quickly?
I wish all Muslims a Happy Ramadhan!
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).