Brushstrokes on a canvas: Digital transformation in society
Everything is accessible from our phones nowadays. Everything is digital. Digital transformation is driving progress and has the capacity to solve social problems, from equal access to government services, advancing energy and sustainability, expanding access to healthcare through telehealth, and growing business and commerce, to name a few.
Let’s look at how digital technology is already providing solutions.
For the 2022 tax season, the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation announced upgrades to its e-filing portal. The upgrades allow more categories of taxpayers (those married and filing jointly and those claiming dependents, for example) to file online. This alleviates possible manpower issues at the department and helps prevent the spread of Covid-19. Added convenience for taxpayers could lead to more filings and tax collection for the government.
The department is also now offering a direct deposit option for tax refunds, allowing taxpayers to get quicker access to their money and spend it in restaurants, stores, or even save up for home down payments. It stimulates the economy.
Digital solutions are now more available for organizations that aim to reduce their carbon footprint. Digitalization makes energy systems more connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable. It enables smart buildings, vehicles and facilities.
For example, Solenergy Micronesia has entered the regional energy market with a cloud-based energy monitoring system that allows users to see, translate and optimize energy data in real-time. The system can also automate tenant billing and summarize data to determine operational insights and improvements for energy efficiency and conservation. This digital technology allows businesses to make decisions and plan energy infrastructure and power generation investments.
Digital technology for energy is becoming more user-friendly and affordable, creating the energy “prosumer,” an individual or organization that both consume and produce energy. In the future, digitalized energy systems might be able to identify who needs energy and deliver it at the right time, in the right
Telehealth is expanding access to care. According to research by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, in the U.S. alone the current use of telehealth is 38 times higher than before the pandemic. Data showed an initial spike in April 2020, but has since stabilized across all specialties.
Locally, telehealth is also expanding. The Guam Memorial Hospital has implemented digital technology in its intensive care unit, allowing medical staff to coordinate with six specialists off-island to deliver care. In addition, tablets and services donated by IT&E to both GMH and Guam Regional Medical City have been used to assist with patient care and communication during the pandemic.
On Jan. 28, U.S. senators and representatives published a letter urging congressional leadership to extend expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services for a set period. The letter strongly supports permanent expansion of Medicare coverage of telehealth and removing other barriers to the use of telehealth “because of its ability to expand access to care, reduce costs, and improve health incomes.”
Commercial health plans broadened coverage for telehealth services in response to Covid-19. For example, 42 states and the District of Columbia require private insurance providers to reimburse clients that opted for telehealth services.
Digital technology (communications in particular) is crucial for disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
The aftermath of Tonga’s undersea volcanic eruption on Jan. 15 highlighted the need for digital technology in disaster response and recovery. During the disaster, the undersea fiber-optic cable that connected the island nation to the internet was cut off, leaving Tonga shut off from the world for a couple of days.
The government and aid workers had to rely on the few satellite phones that were available. However, the blanket of volcanic ash also hampered these connections and, because of the cost, the use of satellite phones was mostly limited to official government business.
You would think that a volcanic eruption that caused a tsunami watch for countries hundreds of miles away would get more media attention, or at least be trending on social media. But the population of some 110,000 was cut off and information was scarce.
Digital technology is used to disseminate information quickly during and after a disaster. Basic communication connects people to critical resources, including information that could be life-saving. Digital disaster preparedness systems often include features like emergency/mass notification systems, surveillance systems, safety management systems, and disaster recovery and backup systems.
As digital transformation progresses, more responders to disasters and aid workers could utilize sensors and other technologies to collect data in disaster areas, then using that data to plan response and aid. They could even take proactive measures by using data from previous disasters to predict when and where disasters will hit.
Organizations can already prepare for disasters by safeguarding their data and systems with managed data centers and services. So, if a natural disaster somehow cuts off access to an organization’s data, it can still be retrieved from a remote server or data center.
By now we’ve all come to realize that digital communications and technologies were instrumental in keeping governments and businesses running, information flowing, education going, and more during the pandemic and as organizations continue to encourage social distancing.
It’s important to keep in mind that digital transformation has many different components. It’s a series of steps in a journey. Organizations might be at different levels of digital maturity.
But each technological advancement is a brushstroke on the canvas. The final masterpiece is an advanced society where technology works for the betterment of all.
— Jay R. Shedd is the executive vice president of CPL, the parent company of PTI Pacific Inc. which does business as IT&E, IP&E. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, business development, sales and marketing. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org