Infectious maladies have been around throughout history. However, globalization has amplified the speed of how epidemics can spread. Traditionally, when humanity is faced with significant change the response follows four principal stages: 1) foiling and confrontation; 2) adoption and conformism; 3) routine and ease; and 4) innovation and evolution. During phase one, there is resistance to the changes needed in a forlorn attempt to force-fit old routines into the current context. In the second phase, there is underestimation of the capabilities of humans to adapt and alter practices. Embracing the new norm follows. Finally, in the last phase, workers accept the certainty of their circumstance and master the new tool kit and commence to innovate with a view to enhance the new norm.

Digital transformation and AI technologies have altered work during the pandemic. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, the paradigm shift even before Covid-19 has been away from the control of workers towards the management of work. From a personnel model of governance towards the strategic management of human capabilities to keep pace with the highly dynamic work environment. The old human resource management practices, including personnel management, prove ineffective in the face of current speed and the magnitude and frequency of change that the new operating environment poses.

Today’s workforce will need to learn new skills and become lifelong learners as we remain less clear about the specific skills tomorrow’s workers will require for jobs of the future. The pandemic double disruption of recession and automation has had unique economic consequences for countries at different stages of digital maturity. It has brought unprecedented economic costs largely because of the immediate disruption to productivity and output. The economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has already been observed on the stock market. During Q1 of 2020, Nikkei lost -22.2%, Dow Jones: -24.1% and FTSE 100: -28.8% (Bloomberg: April 1, 2020).  This has accelerated the double transition to green and automated economies.

Digital transformation is a new business makeover paradigm that leverages cutting edge technologies to design and implement a customer-centric operating model, based on use cases. It is fundamentally the redesign of business models and processes by leveraging data and digital capabilities. The digitalization of archaic workflows pegged to industrial age regulations cannot contribute to the agile work of squads in sprints. Digitalization of process maps and associated routines with their known and experienced blockages can only produce an upgrade of the old undertow.

Organizations most likely to succeed with a digital transformation strategy must have a holistic plan that shines a light in every corner of the organization. One dark corner is Information Governance. Many bureaucracies are awash in paper records. Additionally, many parts of the public service have initiated digitalization projects in silos. The diversity of platforms and software solutions that this has allowed to flourish makes interoperability awkward. Many of these initiatives have created barricades not bridges. Even when records are created digitally from the outset they can be locked into disparate platforms, such as HR management systems, and enterprise resource planning systems that make information sharing complicated, disorganized, and time consuming.

As the silos go up, digital and paper content continue to explode. Most of this content is unstructured. Emails, paper forms, vaccination cards and other types of documents will eventually have to be categorized, organized, secured and stored. As this data tsunami gathers offshore, so too will privacy concerns swell. In this regard, regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US are instructive.  To address this complexity, government bodies will have to recalibrate their records and information governance programmes to oversee comprehensive information management plans that enhance interoperability while protecting confidentiality.

Information Governance refers to the management of information to support an organization’s present and future. But the present in the public service is bound to legacy paper files and tomes bolted with brass screws lodged in vaults. The plan must be to establish a bifurcated programme of work to transfigure the vaulted paper files into digitalized documents that are stored in an Information Management System and to stipulate a start date from which all transactions henceforth must comply with stated standards for automation and interoperability.

Information Governance requires the establishment of a modern Organization and Management Division (O&M) that takes responsibility for Record Management, Record Audits, Retooling, signing off on Programmes of Record Management to ensure interoperability, scalability and compatibility. Appointments to the refreshed unit must be based on post-pandemic job descriptions (JDs) that accentuate working-knowledge of platforms, technologies and Information Management and Governance Systems.

Information Governance Systems must have core capabilities that include: 1) automating the classification and management of records and unstructured data for improved searchability and preservation; 2) empowering sprints to extract value from critical records to create reports, analyses and projections; 3) permit quick and efficient legal blocks and releasing holds when authorization is given; 4) restrict access and limit sharing, copying and printing to manage data security; 5) maintain document chain of custody, complying with retention policies throughout the entire document lifecycle even as legislation, schedules and regulations change.