Amid the devastation of COVID-19, a glimmer of hope | Inquirer Business
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MAPPING THE FUTURE

Amid the devastation of COVID-19, a glimmer of hope

04:01 AM August 02, 2021

For all the pain and suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it has also given us reasons for optimism about the future.

It has accelerated the pace of development of life-saving vaccines.A major cause for elation about what is arguably the worst viral scourge in recent memory is how it has hastened the development of life-saving vaccines that used to take years to develop.

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As Washington Post Columnist Fareed Zakaria recently observed, “… the one thing that distinguishes this pandemic from all previous ones in history was the speed with which humankind came up with a vaccine.”

We refer, in particular, to the accelerated pace of development of a vaccine against COVID-19 based on mRNA technology.

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On Nov. 9, 2020, or barely a year since the outset of the pandemic, Pfizer made the startling announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine, co-developed with German biotechnology company BioNTech using the mRNA platform, is over 90 percent effective in preventing the illness. The mRNA technology has since become the de facto industry standard in developing vaccines and the entire range of life-saving drugs and therapies.

In a related and equally surprising move, Big Pharma appears to have seized the moment when many of its major players decided to join forces in three essential areas to fight back the deadly virus: devising diagnostic tests to identify those who are infected with the virus and those who are not, coming up with therapies that will shorten the course of the disease and lessen its severity and developing vaccines to stem its further spread.

In another sharp break from the past, major Big Tech players Microsoft, Google and Facebook have joined forces with other tech companies in a collective initiative to share information to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

These collaborative initiatives stand in stark contrast with the heavy-handed competition that has long been the hallmark of Big Pharma and Big Tech.

It has ushered in an era of open data

One of the more ominous signs of the times is the increasing monopolization by a handful of Big Tech players of Big Data and the platforms used to process these data, along with the key apps on those platforms.

To counter these worrying trends, government regulators in the both the United States and the European Union are prompting major tech firms, such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft, on veiled threat of harsher regulatory measures, to make their data and software more accessible to smaller tech firms and to consumers. The European Commission for Competition has been notably resolute in its effort to curb the unfair competitive practices of major industry players, notably those in the ICT sector.

Private sector initiatives include Microsoft’s plans to launch 20 data-sharing groups by 2022 and give away some of its digital information, including data it has aggregated on COVID-19. In encouraging more noncommercial sharing, Microsoft is developing software, licenses and governance frameworks that permit the firm to trade data or provide access to them without losing control.

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It has initiated a shift in business strategy toward greater concern for the wellbeing of all stakeholders

We have noted elsewhere that by far the most transformative change that is taking place in the corporate world as a result of the pandemic is the apparent shift in the strategic focus of corporate CEOs and business leaders away from the traditional goal of shareholder wealth maximization to the more inclusive and mutually beneficial concern for the economic well-being of ALL other corporate stakeholders—their customers, their workers, their business partners and the community.

If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the powerful message to corporate managers the world over that their economic fortunes and those of their other stakeholders are intimately and inextricably intertwined, and that what benefits or adversely affects one will also be felt by all others. The realization that “we’re all in this together” has tended to foster closer ties between business firms and their stakeholders. INQ

The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is a retired Professor of Economics and Management, and currently Professorial Lecturer at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

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