Principal Business Consultant Smart Sustainable Cities, msg systems ag
What are the biggest challenges that have arisen or are foreseeable as an impact on COVID19 in your working environment and for your company?
Schonowski: In our work with municipalities we have seen a clear focus on the digitalization of administrations. Here it was simply often about staying able to work and to have e.g. mobile workplaces available. That was a great challenge for the administrations. But the positive experiences also encourage further changes, some things can be done from home in the administration. At the same time, however, it is important to set wise priorities for the future: For example, people who are less digital-affine or who do not have the latest equipment should not be excluded.
At the same time, although there is a certain spirit of optimism and willingness to change out of the crisis, many municipalities will lack the money for their own digital projects in the near future. Priorities will therefore be set, and priority will then be given to projects that are directly related to containing the epidemic or simply to maintaining the ability to work. This applies to local government itself as well as to indirect municipal services, such as the running of schools. The crisis has also revealed needs, but also potentials, in other fields of action. For example, how can we achieve greater resilience at the municipal level, i.e. how are we better equipped to deal with crises of all kinds – and how can we use digitisation for risk management. And how can we ensure the security of our IT systems in the face of an ever-increasing degree of digitization.
What has changed through COVID19 and the experience of uncertainty?
Uncertainties exist in the personal as well as in relation to the overall social, especially economic development. What may I do, what may I not do, is the risk acceptable? And what will happen if the virus continues to dominate our lives in the long term? How do we, how do I personally come through the recession as unscathed as possible? But since all these questions really affect everyone and no one has an answer, there is also a very broad willingness to live with uncertainty, to “drive on sight” and to take pragmatic paths every day. This could be an attitude that makes many things easier for us in digitization – as we have already experienced in the first, particularly critical weeks under Corona.
What concrete opportunities are there as a result of the pandemic?
The pandemic has not least shown that our living conditions and habits can change very quickly. With regard to my field of activity, the municipal transformation towards a Smart City, there is a particularly striking example, namely traffic: Suddenly only a fraction of people were on the move, the streets and public transport were empty as they had not been for decades. At the same time, many people switched to bicycles. A smart municipal traffic control system can react immediately to such a fluctuation, whether at short notice or over a period of weeks, and, for example, allocate cyclists more space on the road.
Delivery traffic can also be significantly optimized using current data. Both mobility fields have an enormous impact on the environment. This is something that concerns me above all as a private person: I also see the experience of this crisis and the digitalisation of local authorities as a huge opportunity for more ecology in the economy. Optimized, demand-oriented and environmentally friendly traffic control is a first step. It would be my great wish that the aim now is not a return to old economic norms with their compulsion for ever more, but a climate-friendly, cycle-oriented further development.
How will the experience of the pandemic affect future business planning?
The Corona crisis has put companies – as well as individuals and public administration – in scenarios that almost no one had previously thought possible. In terms of corporate strategy, flexibility and pragmatism are the order of the day. Perhaps that is what we are all taking away from this crisis and will continue to apply later.
What is the most impressive experience for you personally in this special time?
For me personally, dealing with time is an important aspect. Working from the home office means that working and free time become more intertwined, and breaks have to be allocated much more consciously than before.
I also lack the personal contact to work colleagues, which I consider indispensable. Events that I help organize also live from personal exchange due to the workshop character. On the other hand, you can now simply participate digitally in many events that you wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. But these new options do not replace personal contact and interaction between speakers and participants. Despite all digitalization, life is still analog!