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Societal Resilience – an Italian perspective

3 Jun 2020Digital Society
3 minute read

By Aldo Bisio, CEO Vodafone Italia.

COVID-19 has highlighted even more the strategic importance of communications networks for Italy, in terms of their ability to enable citizens, businesses, institutions, emergency organisations to stay together. This has required an enormous, unforeseen effort, driven by an enormous tide of traffic. Since the beginning of the emergency, our network has allowed millions of people to keep in touch, work from home, be kept up-to-date with the news, study and stay entertained.

When COVID-19 came into our lives, our people responded by being strong, resilient and adaptive.

We put our people first, enabling all 6,000 Vodafone employees to work from home. We upgraded our networks and stepped up capacity, whilst also boosting network performance and coverage for hospitals in the most affected Italian regions. We supported all our business customers, students and people stranded abroad. We helped governors and mayors in their efforts to combat the spread of the virus and made donations to hospitals and associations, providing them with the digital tools needed to enable patients to stay in touch with their families and students to access distance learning.

Whilst the emergency was dramatic, we realised from the outset that this was an opportunity not to be wasted to bring about lasting change.

As we move into the ensuing phases, reliable, resilient and countrywide connectivity will play an even more pivotal role in re-igniting our economies and societies. Yet, this will not be enough as we will be required to re-invent a “new normality”. And, yes! The landing point will be as important as the way we get there, since people will judge us on how we behave now.

The crisis has shown the value of acting as an interdependent community versus as single individuals and the value of fairness and local solidarity versus global efficiency. Social resilience will be a theme that telcos and other industries will have to re-interpret and develop further. Responsibility and social cohesion will become shared values.

I can see three key directions and the related questions they pose:

  1. Remote lifestyles will be adopted everywhere; working from home will apply to all areas of life, across both the private and public sectors. How can we preserve a company’s identity and distinctiveness in this new world? How will our leadership models have to be reshaped in an environment where traditional “command and control” models will no longer be effective?
  2. We will move towards a contactless economy, in which consumers’ behaviours will be markedly different. Digital is a great way to simplify people's lives, offering customers greater transparency. Are we ready for such a new paradigm? How can we cope with growing demand from customers and businesses for simplified lives and automated business models?
  3. Purpose will be more important than ever in business. Our ability to light up emotional connections that can stick in people’s minds will be of paramount importance. We will need new languages. Are we sure we’re embracing this new era at the right speed? How can we make ourselves truly stand out and be consistent with our legacy? The time is now!

All this, for a company such as Vodafone, brings to the fore the issue of rapidly evolving our skills and our mindset. In Italy, we have already started to accelerate our upskilling and reskilling plans, multiplying them tenfold. If we extrapolate this transformation onto Italian society as a whole, we are talking about tens of millions of workers and professionals who must achieve a higher degree of digital literacy. This is the most beautiful challenge ahead of us: improving people’s lives!

  • Digital Society
  • Europe
  • Resilience

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