COVID-19 and its impact on business

The pandemic is a transformative global event, requiring fresh thinking.

We are barely grasping the nature of the global calamity that is the coronavirus (COVID-19). With everything that’s happening, it is hard to understand what this means for the future of business.

We will have regular updates including new insights (short and sharp expert-driven pieces that link to further in-depth resources), additional data and research, media commentary, timely, relevant and fresh perspectives on how COVID-19 might impact the economy, businesses, industries, governments and society. And of course our regular podcast update – Corona Business Insights.

Things are constantly changing and implications will only become clear over time. Our COVID Business Impact Dashboard will be a “living initiative” which will constantly update and adapt its insights and resources.

Listen to the latest: Corona Business Insights, regular podcast updates on the business impact of COVID-19

Click on a topic to skip straight to the insights.


Business leaders are grappling with the realities of having the premises shut, relocating staff to their homes, experimenting with new ways of working, and the new realities of having to lay off vast numbers of staff. How can businesses keep afloat and how will it change the business landscape post crisis? Important questions emerge:

Will emerging digital work practices last beyond the short-term crisis? Will businesses learn from this pandemic and be more resilient for future crises? What will the role of open-plan offices in a world that has experienced extreme social distancing? What is the role of HR in a virtualised organisation where workers are isolated in their homes?

73% of Australian businesses accessed support measures

Source: ABS


Number of additional shoppers Instacart plans to hire to meet US consumer demand

Source: TechCrunch


Roughly how much longer Americans are working each day during COVID-19

Source: Business Facilities


Full-time US workers who would like to work remotely more often after COVID-19

Source: Statista

Recent insights

COVID-19’s temporary measures a long-term solution to road congestion

Australians have reduced their weekly household trips by 50%, according to research undertaken by Matthew Beck and David Hensher at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies.

This represents significant reductions in commuting trips and also those for social and recreational activities.

This level of compliance with stay-home orders demonstrates both a strong level of agreement that COVID-19 was a threat requiring drastic action and a high level of trust in the appropriateness of the restrictions demanded of us by governments. Organisations also played a vital role in swiftly facilitating working from home arrangements.

However our research also reveals the very success of this messaging has created a stigma around public transport. The concern is that even with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions the car will become more attractive as an ongoing bio-security measure – resulting in road congestion worse than before the pandemic.

To avoid hyper road congestion there are a number of policy responses that Government and organisations could get behind:

  • Working from home should continue to be encouraged (after the haphazard start  we quickly appreciated the productivity, equity and work-life advantages we had suddenly crashed into)
  • Active transport (walking, cycling) already boosted by the COVID-19 restrictions, should be further supported (bringing health as well as other benefits)
  • Peak-spreading, or staggering commuting hours, so we have less dramatic peaks (after all we have shown great aptitude for flattening curves)

As we leave the current state of consensus over action, to a potentially more difficult and more fractious period of easing restrictions, there will likely be a competition of ideas and opinions over appropriate action. We need to continue to support each other and maintain the resilience that has allowed us to come this far together.

Marketing in a time of shifting normal

As we enter an interim period of life in a COVID-19 world, there are two key questions for marketers. How is consumer behaviour changing? And how should marketing change in this interim period?

New routines are forming as consumers adjust to isolating at home, many on a reduced income. A British study (2009) found that habit formation takes 66 days. For many countries it is likely home isolation will be in place for at least this time, giving marketers an opportunity to tap into these changed behaviours.

One international study found 90 per cent of Generation Z, and 75% of Baby Boomers, had changed their daily routine since COVID-19 restrictions.

Many brands have moved quickly to try and meet these changing needs and the changing paths to purchase. Some declining but surviving brands, like local restaurants and cafes, swiftly moved to takeaway and delivery only.

Many bricks and mortar retailers rapidly upscaled their online businesses and shifted their marketing efforts accordingly. In China similar upticks through the living with COVID-19 phase have resulted in a higher levels of e-commerce penetration in the recovery phase.

For booming brand categories such as supermarkets and government services, the brands and organisations that are best managing this sudden demand increase are those that have quickly bolstered their customer experience capabilities online and in person.

The other challenge for these booming brands is whether this is an ongoing trend, or a one-off spike. And therefore, how best to manage their marketing efforts across customer service expectations, pricing strategies, product availability, automation improvements in the case of services brands, integration of any required new technology to meet demand, and what sort of levels of promotion might be required.

This interim period of living with COVID-19 is a testing time for marketers. But the benefits will come for those who are customer focussed, agile and tactical.

A one-day per week mandatory remote work rule would make businesses more resilient

As countries went into lockdown many employees had to suddenly shift to working from home full time. And those who have never worked from home were left scrambling to purchase equipment, learn new tools and re-build processes that relied on face to face interaction and in some cases physical documentation situated in an office they could no longer access.

For me this raised an interesting proposition, should all roles that are capable of being remote have a mandatory one-day per week remote rule? Knowing that at any time 20% of your staff are remote would have several benefits, such knowing that remote work tools work when you need them, staff are familiar with remote working, the equipment can be designed with security in mind. I’m sure there are individuals who will find remote work much harder and that is a very real consideration.

We have seen with COVID-19 many businesses surprised by their lack of, or inability to execute on their business continuity plan (BCP). By having a mandatory remote work day you would have a significant part of your BCP built into your day-to-day work, having your business better prepared and more resilient when the next crisis hits.

What we’re reading

More readings

Office work will never be the same (Recode, 21/05/20)

How to prepare your virtual teams for the long haul (HBR, 22/05/20)

Once you go remote, you should never go back (Forbes, 22/05/20)

Are traditional offices still required? (WSJ, 16/05/20)

Westpac mulls permanent remote staff (AFR, 12/05/20)

The era of offshoring U.S. jobs is over (NYT, 11/05/20)

The pandemic has exposed the fallacy of the “ideal worker” (HBR, 11/05/20)

Coronavirus grounded business travel. Will it ever come back? (Wired, 04/05/20)

PwC is building coronavirus contact tracing software for companies (CNBC, 06/05/20)

COVID-19 will fundamentally shift office culture in the future (Forbes, 05/05/20)

The cubicle is back due to the coronavirus (Wired, 30/04/20)

A call for shorter working weeks (The Atlantic, 30/04/20)

Remote Work Is Easy. Remote Hiring Is Hard.​ (Protocol, 29/04/20)

Remote work over the centuries: The Hudson’s Bay Company (Talking About Organizations, 14/04/20)

Covid-19 and the welcome collapse of “professionalism” (Quartz, 21/04/20)

All the things COVID-19 will change forever (Fastcompany, 20/04/20)

Who will be the winners in a post-pandemic economy? (World Economic Forum, 20/04/20)

Working from home might have benefits for women (ABC, 09/04/20)

Tech start-ups struggle to keep afloat (Geekwire, 29/03/20)

Small Businesses and the COVID-19 crisis (HBR, 27/03/20)

Demand for online work tools surges (The Verge, 26/03/20)

What will the ‘next normal’ for business look like? (McKinsey, 25/03/20)

COVID-19: the cost to business (NYT, 15/03/20)


Predictions about the impact of the crisis on the global economy vary wildly, but they all agree that the end result will not be positive. We are asking questions about the impact in its broadest sense:

How deep will the economic impact go? How will growth be affected locally and globally? Will we see heightened global disparity in countries’ economic performance of the coming years, depending on which pandemic response strategy they chose? Will social distancing put an end to the cash economy and spur digital alternatives? How will global supply chains be reshaped as a result of the crisis? What are the implications for capitalism itself?

GDP forecast, % year on year

Source: OECD

COVID-19 impact on stock market

Source: Google Finance

Predicted unemployment in Australia

Source: Grattan Institute

Recent insights

China helped Australia’s GFC recovery and it will again, but for different reasons

China’s economy is poised for a quick rebound. In March, factories reopened and in April, schools started reopening in China’s biggest cities. Daily coal consumption has returned to 90 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

The Australia–China economic partnership was crucial for Australia’s GFC recovery. China became Australia’s largest two-way trading partner in 2007, accounting for 13 per cent (AU$58 billion) of total trade.

Ten years later, in 2018–19, two-way trade with China surged past AU$230 billion, well over double the volume of trade with Australia’s second-ranked trading partner, Japan (AU$88.5 billion). Nearly 40 per cent of Australian exports now go to China and one fifth of imports are from China.

The China trade effect that was concentrated on the resources industry after the GFC is now spread much more widely across Australia’s rural and urban industries.

Compared to 10 years ago, trade with China is more diversified and linked with a larger number of small and medium businesses in Australia. During the GFC, China was Australia’s top market for minerals, fuels and agricultural produce — products in high demand in China’s state-owned sector. Today, China’s middle-class consumers have become Australia’s top market for high-quality consumer products such as food, beauty and health products, as well as services like healthcare, tourism and education.

Australian small and medium exporters are targeting China’s expanding middle class. According to Alibaba, during the 24-hour Singles’ Day sale on 11 November 2019 Australia was the fourth-ranked country selling into China — behind Japan, the United States and South Korea but ahead of Germany.

Australia is facing a bigger crisis now than it did post-GFC, and it is also more closely interconnected with China. This makes the Australia–China economic partnership even more important than it was post-GFC.

The gig economy: a tale of two workers

It’s been the best and the worst of times for gig workers as COVID-19 spawns two classes of employees: The under worked vs the overworked.

Drivers in the personal transport sector, your friendly Uber, Lyft or Didi driver, shuttling people between work, home from a party or a night at the theatre – have found their incomes crashing.

At the same time gig workers in warehouses or delivering consumer goods have never been busier. And those deemed essential have been fortified in their expectation of improved working conditions.

Strikes by Amazon workers protesting about COVID-19 contaminated worksites have spread to other locations staffed with gig employees also demanding better pay and conditions.

Will their bargaining power translate into long term labour reforms? Or will it last only as long as the pandemic?

There is also the possibility employers will try to pit gig worker against gig worker – swamping the pool of in-demand employees with the millions of now second-class unemployed gig workers.

It remains to be seen if the gig workers’ weapons of choice –messaging apps – remain a key organisational tool in their fight for decent conditions, or if these platforms are turned against them in the struggle to have a job, any job, at any cost?

What we’re reading

More readings

The future of work could look like the past (NYT, 24/05/20)

Is Prince Charles using the pandemic to take on capitalism? (Vanity Fair, 22/05/20)

Will COVID-19 have a lasting impact on globalisation? (HBR, 20/05/20)

Why economic forecasting is so difficult in the pandemic (HBR, 18/05/20)

Coronavirus sent shockwaves through the Australian job market (ABC, 14/05/20)

The temporary pandemic layoffs that could become permanent (Axios, 12/05/20)

The coronavirus recovery may take months (Axios, 13/05/20)

EU faces recession of historic proportions (NPR, 06/05/20)

The U.S. is not headed toward a new great depression (HBR, 01/05/20)

Economists on coronavirus and capitalism (Guardian, 06/05/20)

A visual guide to the economic impact of COVID-19 (BBC, 30/04/20)

Why a ‘Greater Depression’ for the 2020s is inevitable (Guardian, 29/04/20)

How coronavirus will upend the economy over the next year (Wired, 28/04/20)

Get ready for the ‘Novel Economy’ (ZDNet, 20/04/20)

Shutdown: estimating the COVID-19 employment shock (Grattan Institute, 19/04/20)

Who’ll pay for global recession? (Economic Times, 16/04/20)

Virus will leave an economic impact for decades (SMH, 07/04/20)

The great deflation threat (Washington Post, 06/04/20)

Paul Krugman says we are ignoring a fiscal time bomb (Business Insider, 02/04/20)

What we get wrong about the toilet paper shortage (Medium, 03/04/20)

Why the Global Recession Could Last a Long Time (NYT, 01/04/20)

Four futures of how economic systems might change (The Conversation, 30/03/20)

Inflation might increase after the crisis (Barron’s, 27/03/20)

Australia says good bye to 30 years of growth (NYT, 27/03/20)

What is the shape of the COVID-19 shock (HBR, 27/03/20)

McKinsey’s continuous analysis of the economic impact (McKinsey, 25/03/20)

A recession will be unavoidable (NYT, 21/03/20)

The fragility of just-in-time supply chains (The Atlantic, 26/03/20)

Bitcoin is not a safe haven investment (MIT Tech Review, 19/03/20)

COVID-19 is a chance to do capitalism differently (Guardian, 19/03/20)


With businesses in many sectors struggling and closing their doors as a result of the COVID-19 response and other industries seeing surges in demand and their services expand, we ask questions about the lasting future implications across industries:

As the travel industry is one of the earliest and hardest hit, will tourism and business travel undergo lasting transformations? Will large technology companies (big tech) benefit from the crisis and emerge stronger than before? With the growth in online streaming, what are the implications for the film and movie sectors? What is the impact on sports, worldwide and locally; will Australia be able to sustain its indigenous sports codes?

Chinese industrial production down 13.5% in the first two months of 2020

Source: China National Bureau of Statistics

Total hours watched on game streaming services in Q1 2020.

Source: Streamlabs


Decrease in commercial flights around the world, last week of May year-on-year

Source: Flightradar24


Drop in Australian retail turnover from March 2020 to April 2020.

Source: ABS (revised 4 June 2020)

Recent insights

The future of the film industry: With cinemas dark, all eyes are on streaming

The COVID-19 crises is set to have an enormous impact on the future of the film production and distribution sector, with the future of the night out at the movies in serious doubt. Billions of dollars are bound up in blockbuster film productions that have been completed but cannot now be released, as cinemas had to go dark due to COVID-19 lock downs globally.

For example, movies such as Top Gun: Maverick, Wonder Woman 1984, Marvel’s Black Widow, or Disney’s Mulan are all awaiting their first screenings. In the pre-Corona world movies would always see the light of day at the cinema first, with a well-spaced release window before they make their way to DVD or the TV screen. But these are not normal times. Streaming services all have seen between 20-30% jumps in viewership during the first few weeks of the crisis.

Thus, the pressure for film studios to unlock the millions or even billions of production capital tied up in already filmed but unreleased movies is now mounting. Yet, if studios were to decide to collapse the release window and put these blockbusters straight to the small screen, such as through their own streaming services, this might have lasting effects for the future of film distribution and the survival of the cinema experience.

Quo Vadis air travel after COVID-19?

Air travel has been hit hard by Covid-19. At a global level, scheduled flights have halved and have fallen by 65% in Australia. It is estimated that 50 million jobs will be lost world wide in the travel and tourism industry.

Airlines, despite exponential growth in passenger numbers and revenue over the past decades, will be particularly affected and many may not survive the crisis. Looking forward, there is no clear trigger for an easing of travel restrictions as countries will be reluctant to open borders without clear signs that the threat has passed. Moreover, there is no clear indication yet as to how the preferences of both tourists and business travellers may change or how their budgets might be affected by a prolonged global recession.

As a result, we may see less competition and a contraction in the airline industry, yet a functioning airline sector is essential for the country’s many tourism and travel-related jobs. Two likely futures need to be considered. First, airlines, much like banks after the global financial crisis, might be required to keep much higher cash reserves for resilience. Second, we might see much greater levels of government involvement as the result of bailout action, either through regulation or state ownership.

What we’re reading

More readings

Wild ideas to bring back sports might say more about cities than leagues (NYT, 01/05/20)

Tokyo Olympics to be scrapped if not held next year (Al Jazeera, 21/05/20)

Coronavirus is accelerating the rise of alternative meat (Grist, 23/05/20)

The A380 could be the aircraft industry’s first pandemic victim (SMH, 21/05/20)

The pandemic will permanently change the auto industry (NYT, 13/05/20)

Can the restaurant industry be saved? (Rolling Stone, 11/05/20)

Air travel is going to be bad for a long time (The Atlantic, 11/05/20)

Selling products via live-streaming in China boosts recovery (MIT Tech Review, 06/05/20)

Looking to the future of air travel (HBR, 04/05/20)

The Coronavirus and the future of big tech (The New Yorker, 29/04/20)

The myth of Silicon Valley innocation (MIT Tech Review, 25/04/20)

Why coronavirus will accelerate the fourth Industrial Revolution (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 24/04/20)

Instacart hires 250,000 new workers (TechCrunch, 24/04/20)

The coronavirus is blowing up the media landscape (Vanity Fair, 21/04/20)

Gaming sales are up, but production is down (NYT, 21/04/20)

Australia’s manufacturing pivot in a post-coronavirus world (ABC, 19/04/20)

Travel Experts predict the future of travel (Forbes, 05/04/20)

Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus? (Citylab, 03/04/20)

Bigtech will emerge stronger than ever (NYT, 23/03/20)

How the crisis might affect Facebook (Seeking Alpha, 05/04/20)

Tech predictions for a post-corona world (Forbes, 03/04/20)

Food shortages loom as work force goes missing (CNBC, 30/03/20)

Fintechs are likely to struggle (SMH, 28/03/20)

Bigtech will emerge stronger than ever (NYT, 23/03/20)

COVID-19 might have killed the Techlash (Wired, 20/03/20)

COVID-19 could lead to mass exodus in restaurants (The Daily Beast, 19/03/20)

Economic effects for the Sports industry (FiveThirtyEight, 16/03/20)

The aviation industry might never recover fully (The Economist, 15/03/20)


Social distancing presents an unwanted and unprecedented societal experiment which might have long-lasting effects on how we organise public lives, what freedoms citizens will enjoy and how we will interact with each other in the future. We ask:

How will our collective life-styles adjust after months of social distancing? Will we experience a wave of loneliness and mental health problems or re-connect with each other in new and meaningful digital ways? Will COVID-19 lead to a greater acceptance of state surveillance and individual tracking, to effectively isolate infection cases? What are the implications for our global climate response as COVID-19 grabs public attention? Will we find new ways to curb misinformation as a result of the COVID-19 experience?

Pollution in Europe

(NO2 levels April 2019-2020)

Moving image showing differences in pollution across Europe in April 2019 and April 2020

Source: European Space Agency


Less Sydney morning traffic compared to usual (100%)

Source: Citymapper (2 June 2020)


Increase in Netflix subscribers during Q1 2020

Source: Netflix


Month-on-month increase in calls to Beyond Blue in March 2020

Source: ABC News

Recent insights

We are story characters living in a new story world

Across the world societies have joined another realm: this pandemic and its response have created a new narrative world, rather like a peculiar disaster movie, that prioritises only certain types of heroes and “expertise”. Unlike the stereotypical disaster feature, our new true heroes are the characters combating the disease: the health professionals – embracing both government medical officers as well as front line medics, but (curiously) not really the psychologists or pharmacists.

And while other untypical heroes have emerged – supermarket workers, truck drivers and home delivery agents – only a few politicians get to be heroes (or villains) but in a much-reduced cast.

Narratology, the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways these affect human perception, also helps us make sense of the how different countries have been able to respond well if they can mobilise citizens’ trust in communities and (generally well-run) government.

Japan maintained economic activity longer than many Asian countries. However, as infections grew the Japanese government declared a state of emergency, but merely “encouraged” dramatic reductions of sales and movements. Unlike Australia and other nations, Japanese central and local governments did not set criminal sanctions and use the police to enforce restrictions. Instead they relied on appeals to narratives of civic virtue and consideration for others, underpinned by more instrumentalist power of ‘shaming’ some miscreant businesses by ‘warning’ the public if they remained open.

Historians tell us many tangible improvements come out of disasters. As Australia keeps trying to move into a phase of socio-economic revitalisation, a new narrative will emerge and could be framed by political and other leaders. The valuable lessons and experiences wrought by the pandemic can live on, enriching our post-pandemic lives. Alternatively, the learnings could be ‘quarantined’ to the time of crisis so that our post-pandemic lives are lived immune from the alternative storyline. We will be the poorer society if this second narrative succeeds.

Protection of temporary migrants is now a ‘public health issue’

Australia, like many countries, relies on migrant workers to perform jobs that are crucial during the COVID-19 crisis: in health, social care, cleaning, food services, delivery, retail and horticulture. Nonetheless, many temporary migrants have lost their jobs during the current shutdown.

The Australian government has chosen to exclude temporary migrants from social security measures, such as the JobKeeper payment, and has told those who cannot support themselves to “go home”. This exclusion is a continuation of the government’s approach to immigration policy. But current restrictions have made international travel almost impossible. These exclusionary measures may push temporary migrants to work when sick and into the informal labour market.

We are all in this public health crisis together and we no longer have the luxury to exclude. COVID-19 does not discriminate based on visa, residency or citizenship status and nor should government policies be in responding to it.

For many decades, Australia had a highly inclusive immigration system where virtually all migrants had permanent residency with full access to employment and social rights. The Australian government should return to this approach and extend protections available to citizens to all temporary migrants.

Australia is a nation of immigrants with a workforce of immigrants. Temporary migrants contribute greatly to our economy and society. Now these contributions must be reciprocated. Not only is it fair, it’s in Australia’s national interest.

COVID-19 is first and foremost a social dilemma

Our collective response as a society to COVID-19 represents what economists would call a social dilemma. We all benefit if most of us behave cooperatively and follow recommendations from authorities to self-isolate, exercise self-restraint by not hoarding toilet paper or hand sanitiser. However, each of us has an incentive to free ride on the cooperation of others by granting ourselves an exception, while hoping everyone else will comply. The nature of a social dilemma is that it ends in the worst possible outcome where everybody is granting themselves an exception, and no one is complying with the collective rules.

So how can we prevent the breakdown of social cooperation in the current COVID-19 crisis?

It starts with an understanding of how people are likely to behave in social dilemma situations. Our research, based on a large sample of more than 7,000 individuals, shows around about 60% are ‘conditional co-operators’ who will comply if they believe others will. 20% of the population are selfish ‘free-riders’ who will not cooperate in most social dilemma situations, while 3% are ‘altruists’ who will always cooperate.  Another 10% are so-called ‘triangle co-operators’. They behave similarly to conditional co-operators, but only to the point where they believe enough people are cooperating. They then reduce their cooperation. The remainder – about 7% – behave unpredictably.

The government’s focus should be on the two main groups. Conditional co-operators behaviour is very sensitive to what they believe most others will do. They will only pay taxes, save water or protect the environment if they believe most others will do likewise.

Two mechanisms are absolutely essential to navigate through the current COVID-19 social dilemma. Firstly, effective and consistent communication reassuring the majority of conditional co-operators to uphold their belief in equality and egalitarianism. This involves show-casing exemplary acts of cooperation and granting no preferential treatment to any kind of interest group. Secondly, swift and visible punishment of free riders and strict enforcement of rules by authorities and by society in general to assure that nobody gets away with uncooperative behaviour in these testing times.

What we’re reading

More readings

For some people, returning to ‘normal’ might be scarier (The Conversation, 25/05/20)

The absence of sports feels like a loss for fans (Washington Post, 22/05/20)

The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities (Washington Post, 20/05/20)

The gym as you know it is a thing of the past (Vice, 14/05/20)

The lockdown live-streaming numbers are out, and they’re huge (The Verge, 13/05/20)

The 10 US cities best positioned to recover from coronavirus (Forbes, 12/05/20)

Our cities may never look the same again after the pandemic (CNN, 10/05/20)

Your daily commute won’t ever be the same (National Geographic, 11/05/20)

Urban design must adapt to coronavirus risks and fears (The Conversation, 07/05/20)

Sydney’s CBD could look very different after coronavirus (ABC, 05/05/20)

The coronavirus is rewriting our imaginations (The New Yorker, 01/05/20)

Record 50 million people internally displaced (Axios, 28/04/20)

How cities are reshaping streets for life after lockdown (Fastcompany, 27/04/20)

The pandemic might make buildings sick too (World Economic Forum, 26/04/20)

Many COVID-19 survivors will be left traumatised (MIT Tech Review, 22/04/20)

How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting climate change? (Wired, 21/04/20)

Time is meaningless now (Vice, 10/04/20)

COVID-19 might stall climate response (MIT Tech Review, 10/04/20)

Will the crisis have a lasting effect on pollution (National Geographic, 08/04/20)

Poachers Kill More Rhinos as Coronavirus Halts Tourism to Africa (NYT, 08/04/20)

Big Tech uses data to fight coronavirus (The Verge, 07/04/20)

Fighting the Coronavirus Infodemic (Wired, 30/03/20)

Life after Corona might not be that different (Huffington Post, 28/03/20)

New values and habits after the pandemic (Forbes, 28/03/20)

Our cities will have to change (Citylab, 27/03/20)

How the Pandemic Will Change Our Homes Forever (dwell, 26/03/20)

How COVID-19 might change the way we live (Mashable, 25/03/20)

COVID-19 lockdown hampers climate response (NYT, 19/03/20)

What COVID-19 tells us about failed responses to climate change (Scientific American, 17/03/20)

How to fight the infodemic with social media (MIT Tech Review, 17/03/20)

How COVID-19 will change how we shop, work, travel (Bloomberg, 14/03/20)


While governments everywhere scramble to organise the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are curious about what future changes our collective experiences with the response will bring to government systems and institutions:

What are the lasting impacts for employment and social security systems? Will there be renewed appetite for a serious consideration of Universal Basic Income? How will the pandemic shape public health systems? Will we see a surge in universal health? Will the experiences the global search for a vaccine lead to lasting changes in the status and funding of scientific research? How should policy responses be organised to govern a world that has learned from the COVID-19 crisis?

100+ countries have travel restrictions

Source: IATA, BBC

16.4%of GDP

The Australian Government’s total support for the economy as of 1 April

Source: The Treasury


Potential loses for the city of Tokyo due to Olympics being postponed

Source: Statista

Recent insights

Our corporate regulator’s response

Recent events surrounding the impact of COVID-19, and the resulting effects on business, have been creating great uncertainty, with an appreciable effect on global securities markets. In response, the Australian corporate regulator, the Australian Investments and Securities Commission (ASIC) has announced its COVID-19 regulatory priorities.

ASIC has a very wide set of responsibilities and says it will focus on those areas where there is “risk of significant consumer harm, serious breaches of the law, risks to market integrity, and time-critical matters”. Furthermore, ASIC will suspend or defer non time-critical matters including industry consultation, regulatory reports and reviews.

ASIC is to be congratulated for its pragmatic approach in these difficult times, which will allow businesses to focus on their own responses to the many challenges now confronting them. While criminal activity and misconduct must never be tolerated, now is the time to appropriately enable business to address the issues which affect their key stakeholders, including not only their shareholders, but also their customers, clients and employees, as well as the wider community.   

Health surveillance can be a positive-sum game

We must design the health surveillance and AI tools needed to control COVID-19 and future pandemics so they don’t psychologically backfire or hinder our opportunities to thrive in the future.

The Australian Government, the UK National Health Service, Apple in collaboration with Google are all developing technology solutions for COVID-19 contact tracing following others like China, South Korea, Israel and Singapore.

A key challenge for designers and engineers building health surveillance is to align it with the values of those surveilled, but also to communicate these values and reasons underlying a surveillance technology to foster autonomous endorsement. Psychology can provide evidence-based guidance on designing autonomy-supportive interventions. Another useful starting point are frameworks for responsible innovation or ethical AI that that broadly align with the biomedical ethics principles, particularly of supporting human autonomy.

Ethical concerns around health surveillance will only multiply. They are often cast as a distrusting zero-sum game between public good and private freedoms, where more of one must mean less of the other. The psychology of autonomy suggests a productive alternative: where surveiller and surveilled endorse wellbeing as the jointly valued end, health surveillance can be a positive-sum game – effective and chosen freely.

For effective pandemic response we need to fill the information vacuum fast

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything it’s that early, co-ordinated, consistent and clear information and communications from trustworthy sources are of vital importance for the support of disease containment strategies.

Because in the early stages of contagion, official and trustworthy information about the seriousness and virulence of the disease was scant, a window of opportunity opened for the virus to spread. And with it, the spread of misinformation occurred across traditional and social media, driving some commentators to highlight an “infodemic”. This infodemic amplified the scale of the epidemic, putting health and economic systems under unsustainable pressure.

In order for all of us in our various societal roles to develop a sense and understanding of shared direction and meaning in a crisis, and to know “what do I need to do to keep people safe”, the inevitable early information vacuum must be filled with simple, accurate and reliable information as quickly as possible. While the WHO has been working with social media companies to debunk myths and rumours about COVID-19 as quickly as possible, this game of catch-up is not scalable or sustainable in the long term.

Governments around the world must work with their citizens to develop effective, collaborative and meaningful communications frameworks and systems to ensure that trustworthy information reaches those who need it quickly, in order to minimise adverse consequences. “Almost everyone” asking “what should I do to keep everyone safe”, means that our current communications strategies will inevitably lead to systems failure.

What we’re reading

More readings

The end of the new world order (NYT, 23/05/20)

Immunity passports could help end lockdown (The Conversation, 21/05/20)

Mnuchin and Powell warn of economic scarring, and offer divergent solutions (NYT, 19/05/20)

How coronavirus is reshaping Europe in dangerous ways (Guardian, 14/05/20)

Coronavirus pandemic sees spike in demand for tiny homes (ABC, 16/05/20)

Elite cyborg universities will soon monopolise higher education (NY Magazine, 11/05/20)

How the world is tackling contact tracing (Canberra Times, 04/05/20)

Travel bubbles could be a modal for the future (CNN, 04/05/20)

Can antibody tests detect coronavirus mutations? (CNET, 07/05/20)

Digtial contact tracing doesn’t have to sacrifice privacy (Gizmodo, 30/04/20)

How crime changes during a lockdown (The Conversation, 02/04/20)

Prepare for less privacy (Axios, 29/04/20)

800,000 jobs go in three weeks amid Depression warning (SMH, 21/04/20)

Beware a new wave of populism post-coronavirus (Guardian, 19/04/20)

Could big tech be better at tracking COVID-19 than the government? (OneZero, 14/04/20)

Spanish Government Aims to Roll Out Basic Income ‘Soon’ (Bloomberg, 06/04/20)

The crisis aggravates gig work disputes (Wired, 30/03/20)

Key union proposes UBI in Australia (SMH, 26/03/20)

The US chooses mass unemployment, while Europe tries to preserve jobs (NYT, 26/03/20)

Andrew Yang’s UBI idea is popular again (Washington Post, 23/03/20)

The US uses marketing databases to track COVID cases (Forbes, 30/03/20)

The UK opts to secure jobs by subsidizing wages (BBC, 20/03/20)

A call for UBI in the US (Guardian, 20/03/20)

Tracking virus spread with smartphone app (NYT, 19/03/20)

Europe vs China: COVID-19 and political systems (NYT, 19/03/20)

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As COVID-19 sets out to change the world forever, join us in thinking about what’s to come

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