Go digital with empathy to unlock the post-pandemic future

Even in an era driven by algorithms and data, there is value in looking at the business world from a human angle. Hong Kong needs citywide digital literacy and integration of design into non-design disciplines from a young age.

Syed Munir Khasru’s article“Digital evolution key to Asean’s post-pandemic recovery” (June 4) echoes the call for digitalisation from our city’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are facing increased competition from within the region.

The power of digitalisation has enabled us to work flexibly and have online access to finance, health care, education and entertainment. Blockchain-based non-fungible tokens (NFTs) underpinning authentic ownership of valuables have disrupted the commercialisation of art and real estate. Many such novel ways of work and social behaviour will stay after the pandemic.

In the era of artificial intelligence, businesses of all sizes still need to empathetically connect with customers. They need knowledge to navigate the e-business ecosystem and convincing narratives to win customers. They also need agile retail strategies and to offer customers a seamless online and offline experience.

Specialisation, localisation and different cultures and states of play have led to various digital strategies and practices for accessing different markets. Current education needs to better prime students and the workforce with a befitting mindset and skill set to face the new work-life realities.

Going digital also requires a strategic embrace of human-centred design. Noted Journalist and social anthropologist Gillian Tett’s new book, Anthro-Vision, is a timely reminder of the value of looking at the business world from a human angle in an era driven by algorithms and data. Facing a diversity of people and cultures, complexity of sociopolitical and economic structures, and uncertainty over the future, those who can innovate fast with empathy in delivering meaningful offerings will win hearts.

Policy support for SMEs aside, digitalisation ought to be an integral part of training on entrepreneurship, innovation management and good business design. There is a dearth of “business of digital” knowledge, as reflected in comments by founders of emerging brands at recent design industry roundtables held in partnership with PMQ. There have been calls for better coordinated policies and support to design and implement practice-oriented learning platforms and go-to-market programmes, to tap regional and overseas market opportunities.

A smart city needs to be a human city. We need citywide digital literacy and integration of design into non-design disciplines from a young age. It is time to step up practice-oriented research, VPET or vocational and professional education and training, and advanced learning, to meet the competence needs of business and industry. Only the fittest will survive, game on for those who can turn pain into gain.