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COVID-19 and the Global Economy: The Role of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Post Pandemic Economic Recovery

Authors: Brogan Csinger & Hannah Stokdijk

2020 was a year no one could have expected. A normal March turned into a sci-fi movie as the Corona Virus made its way through the nations of the world changing everything as we knew it. As the fear of sickness grew, the world began to shut down. Forced lockdowns and essential shopping emerged as the new daily routine.

The Global Covid-19 Pandemic took its toll on society. Healthcare workers struggled to keep up with the demand at work while others took to working from the couch in pajamas. Everyone has their story of how they were personally affected by the virus, just as everyone can relate to how Covid-19 has affected the economy. We saw the global economy spiral into a recession “not seen since the Great Depression” [2].

 Quick action in several sectors boosted the economy and contributed to its continued rise. The sectors of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) played a key role in the recovery of the global economy during 2020 into 2021, and they continue to support growth for a post-pandemic world.

During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic it became excruciatingly clear that the solution lay in a yet to be formulated vaccine. As the public was coming to this realization, the STI community was already advancing research and development to generate a safe vaccine. As vaccine development gained speed it created opportunities for increased jobs and revenue, helping bring the economy back to life. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that approximately 2 billion USD had been pledged to international vaccine development by mid-2020 [3].

“COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst accelerating international STI collaboration, open-access research and the use of digital tools” [4]. With the increased need for isolation to protect from spread of the virus, the call for remote meetings, learning, communication, and knowledge sharing grew rapidly. The widespread adoption of digital conferencing software is an exemplar of society’s ability to adapt to new circumstances. Isolation mandates necessitated the development of new digital frameworks that will play a role in post-pandemic economic recovery and growth [5].

The STI sector is not yet finished playing its role in rebuilding the global economy. Lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis will be used to further improve the efficiency, communication, and general operation of many sectors, especially in STI. Improvements like these will fuel the global economic rebound as they contribute to job creation and technology development, as well as help bring awareness to causes and solutions (especially socio-economic ones) [4].

UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted the innovation-driving effect of the pandemic in both healthcare and online communication sectors, saying: “these advancements hold promise for our collective challenges beyond Covid-19”. To many workers in the STI sectors the pandemic was an opportunity to put their skills to work solving a tangible crisis [6].

The uncertainty of the pandemic also shed some light on supply and demand issues. As quarantines came into effect, many industrial factories were forced to shut down for extended periods. The effects of these shutdowns are still being felt in concentrated areas of production all over the world. Shortages of building materials, medical supplies and food are popping up worldwide. Xiaolan Fu, Founding Director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD), said in an article for the International Science Council that “digitization [of industries and production systems] often means greater capital and technology intensity, and less use of labour.” [7].

Industry can take comfort that through this pandemic, the rise of automation, contactless and remote work, and increased use of technology has all been of benefit, each in their own way contributing to economic recovery. Xiaolan also says:

“Some countries will fill the gap of relocated GVC’s [Global Value Chains’] by investing heavily in the star ‘future’ sectors in the digital economy, innovation in digital applications in the traditional industries, and the development of digital infrastructure. These sectors will be new engines of economic growth.” [7].

From this we can see the fast-growing effect that STI sectors have had on global economics during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be no surprise when this boosted economic growth will continue into the rest of 2022.

References

[1] Public Service Alliance of Canada. (October 20, 2021). FAQ: Federal vaccination policy. Available at: http://psacunion.ca/faq-federal-vaccination-policy

[2] Burns, D. & John, M. (December 31, 2020). COVID-19 shook, rattled and rolled the global economy in 2020. Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-economy-yearend-graphicidUSKBN2950GH

[3] OECD. Science, Technology, and Innovation Outlook: Times of crisis and opportunity. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/sti/oecd-science-technology-and-innovation-outlook-25186167.htm

[4] OECD. (January 12, 2021). 5 new finding from the new science technology and innovation outlook. Available at: https://oecd-innovation-blog.com/2021/01/12/science-technology-innovation-outlook-2021-key-findings-covid-19/

[5] “New tech infrastructure will help economies recover after COVID-19,” World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/new-tech-infrastructure-will-help-economies-recover-after-covid-19/ (accessed Feb. 04, 2022).

[6] “Advances in Science, Technology Crucial for Equitable Pandemic Recovery, Global Growth, Speakers Stress, as Economic and Social Council Opens Multi-Stakeholder Forum | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.” https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/ecosoc7043.doc.htm

[7] X. Fu, “Innovative technologies and post-Coronavirus economic recovery: A global value chains perspective,” International Science Council, Feb. 06, 2020. https://council.science/current/news/innovative-technologies-and-post-coronavirus-economic-recoverya-global-value-chains-perspective/

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