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Disruption and Digital Transformation Trends in the Pandemic (part 4) – Government, Education, and Not for Profit

Part four of a four-part series discussing disruption and transformation during the pandemic. This part looks at how the pandemic has disrupted three of the key sectors we work with at Monro Consulting – public sector, not-for-profit, and education.

Disruption during the pandemic has extended to all sectors, including those that form the basis for our society, like local and central government, and education. The charity and not-for-profit sector has also endured a huge amount of disruption.

Each of these sectors had begun to transform digitally pre-pandemic but, as with every other sector, this transformation experienced forced acceleration with the outbreak of Coronavirus.

Government

There are many benefits for local and central government in investing in digital services, but there was a great amount of hesitation to do so – with concerns about aspects like finances, issues with implementation and rollout, or compatibility with existing legacy platforms.

SaaS cloud solutions have been instrumental in facilitating the great work from home shift, (as have video conferencing and SaaS collaborative management tools like MS Teams and Zoom) allowing employees to carry out their work from the safety of their home. However, moving things online has meant overcoming regulatory issues. Governmental departments primarily deal with sensitive, personal data, hence why there’s traditionally been a reluctance – as with many other tightly regulated industries – to migrate this data to the cloud.

The surge in customer communications that came with the pandemic and lockdown – everything from enquiring about benefits to finding out the date of the next refuse collection – has been greatly assisted by implementing disruptive tech like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Processing Automation (RPA). Conversational AI solutions like chatbots can ‘learn’ content and information from websites, and have been helpful in dealing with the deluge of enquiries.

The Charity and Not-For-Profit Sector

The pandemic has highlighted the digital divide within the charity and not-for-profit sector. There are some who have embraced the change, and expanded their services and digital capacity. But those working with service users and beneficiaries at a higher risk of digital exclusion, such as the elderly or homeless, have been under immense pressure to implement the necessary transformation.

Charities and not-for-profits rely on fundraising and, pre-pandemic, a significant amount of this was done through physical events. However, with lockdown and social restrictions, charities having a strong digital presence became crucial – creating digital strategies to ensure visibility online and on social media. This has enabled them to continue carrying out marketing and communications, to raise awareness for their causes, and to publicise events and activities.

Digital fundraising events and online activities have been facilitated by the use of video recording and conferencing software, such as Zoom, which is the perfect platform for fundraising events like virtual quizzes or classes.

With the rise in mobile browsing, the number of charities commissioning or designing their own mobile apps also increased. For example, the British Red Cross created an app that lets users access first-aid advice wherever they are. Breast Cancer Now created the ‘Becca’ app, which offers instant support and resources to those suffering or recovering from breast cancer, as well as key tips to help people who are recovering from breast cancer treatment.

Online payment systems have also had to be updated, both for retail transactions for those charities selling merchandise and to enable site visitors to donate online. Again, this is something which was already underway for many larger organisations, but was a steep learning curve for smaller charities.

Education

Many educational institutions were already online to some extent, but the pandemic was effectively the catalyst for widespread digital transformation. Again, a digital divide was uncovered, with schools, colleges, and universities coping at wildly varying levels depending on the infrastructure already in place. Compatibility with (sometimes ageing) legacy systems was another issue that needed to be overcome.

Both the cloud and access to video conferencing software have been key in facilitating online study. Solutions like GSuite, along with Google Meets and Google Classroom have done for a lot of educational institutions what MS Teams has done for the remote workplace. However, the move to online has often been time- and labour-intensive for staff, particularly with lower age groups.

The disruption has made things more inclusive on the one hand, and less on the other. It allows access to all to education regardless of their location, with a huge number of courses considered ‘classroom only’ now being adapted for online. At the same time, there’s a very real fear that students or children without access to technology at home are at high risk of being alienated, and falling behind their peers.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series. If you missed the earlier instalments, we recommend you start with Disruption and Transformation in the Pandemic – Digital Disruption.

Take a look here to see case studies of how we’ve helped organisations in these sectors (and more) overcome their business transformation challenges. And please do get in touch if you’d like to talk with us about kick-starting your own business transformation.