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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges to our personal and professional lives.

Today the threat of social and political unrest around the world is rising as the coronavirus crisis fuels discontent amid food shortages, job losses, and lockdowns.

Can you imagine after all the new year we would be defining this new decade in terms of a pre-pandemic, pandemic, social unrest, and post-pandemic? If there is anything this pandemic and social issues has taught us, it’s how important humans are to businesses and the economy. The virus risks political and social unrest with hunger rising and so we are starting to see risk culture and control. Different countries have taken different approaches to enforce the government’s confinement measures.

The degree of control and enforcement needed to make the population comply with what is expected of them is an example of (risk) culture. How are people behaving when they think nobody is watching? As the confinement period extends, behaviors are likely to change, the capacity to absorb the confinement will decrease. Overall, inducing the right behavior in the population at large is a delicate balancing act between explaining why, trusting and nudging, and enforcement.

Interesting are the examples like what was reported last week of Dataminr action during the George Floyd protest, where social media data is used to assess the compliance of the population in aggregate with what is expected of them. Behavior and culture can be measured in a way that protects privacy and is still informative. More delicate are the more intrusive attempts to capture one’s contact history to attribute to individuals a sort of “contagion score”.

This leads to a different debate, where not only issues of privacy, but also human autonomy and integrity come to the fore. Some fear that the surveillance society will abuse the pandemic to take further root. Let us all stay vigilant, that we end up in this debate with an outcome that is compatible with our collective risk appetite, supported by good citizenship as risk-taking capacity. Without humans, everything comes to a grinding halt. It’s why long-term value performance increasingly needs to be predicated beyond the financials to incorporate the human factors — customers, employees, society.

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