The New Normal - Business in 2020 & Beyond
" Video-conferencing is the key now!", says Dr. Ramnath Sonawane, Secretary - Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, Mumbai.
Dr. Sonawane explains how technology helped various departments in staying operational and in sync with the changing times.
Q.1. What has been the impact of COVID on the Government Sector?
COVID 19 has adversely affected, almost paralysed, the day to day functioning of almost all Government departments including our Authority, Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority. The Authority's Office was functional with only 5% staff.
Q.2. How has your department/industry conducted business/run operations during this pandemic?
During lockdown, the office was open on working days with a bare minimum staff ensuring social distancing at the offices. Some officers were allowed to work from home. Local bodies, state police department, public health department, water supply, electricity supply department and several other Government departments have rendered commendable services in combating the ongoing pandemic outbreak . They have been effectively leveraging the ICT and proactively using e-office and video conferencing facilities.
Q.3. Is the department/industry embracing new technologies to tide over this situation?
It surely is, Video-conferencing is the key now. We conducted Authority’s meetings through video conferences.
Q.4. Has the consumer behaviour changed and will it be permanent.
Indeed it has, there is a sea change in consumer behaviour. Most of them have changed their attitude. Consumers try to procure essential commodities and stock it with the fear that there might be a shortage of these commodities in future. People have become price sensitive, spending on non essential commodities/ products has been avoided.
Q.5. Is the consumer spending getting back on track?
Yes, after unlocking the process it is coming back on track. However, I think that it will take more than 2 years to return to normalcy as COVID 19 has adversely affected Employment opportunities in the unorganised sector. A lot of employees have lost their jobs and livelihood.
Q.6. What do you see as a permanent change in the way your department/ industry did business/run operations?
Change in work culture is imminent and inevitable. The practice of IT industry, Work from Home (WFH) will have to be adopted in the public as well as private sector. As the central government employees may have to work with staggered attendance and variable working hours, the government has come out with draft frameworks for ‘work for home’ for the staff post-lockdown.
Q.7. The future of your Department/Industry - 2020 & Beyond.
The future is not so bleak. The Government/ Public sector is going to stay but it will have to ensure optimism and judicious use of its available resources. Government is continuously working towards transforming the operations not only in health care but in areas like service delivery, workforce, regulations and procurement. Private sector also can explore various opportunities in the field of manufacturing the goods which are otherwise imported from other countries. Organisations which are quickly adopting the new rules and creating a differentiator will be the winners of tomorrow.
“The views expressed by the interviewee are their own and may not necessarily represent views of employers and partners associated with the interviewee”.
Ekaga's Point of View
The Government departments swiftly went into long awaited digital transformation during the pandemic. Many departments which were not using the e-office module quickly adapted to the change. Presently, about 75 ministries/departments are actively using e-office platforms of which 57 have achieved more than 80 per cent of their work. There are approximately 48.34 lakh central government employees.
The Personnel Ministry also came out with a draft framework for ‘work for home’ for the staff post- lockdown. A new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were finalised for the employees to ensure smooth and seamless functioning of the government for continuity of the office works besides imparting resilience in the ecosystem.
With the help of the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the government is ensuring that departments leverage the e-office and video conferencing to organise important meetings while working from home. The government came up with many new policies and guidelines to ensure that day to day operations of various departments and ministries do not get hampered by the novel virus.
Government is working towards incorporating new technologies into the system to transform the traditional ecosystem with help of startups providing innovative technology solutions.
Technology is undoubtedly making things more efficient and convenient.