No Pyrrhic Victory for New Zealand and Australia after Lock Down

May, 05, 2020, by Laura Taylor

Increasing numbers of voices globally are cautioning about the uses of the pandemic crisis for the positive benefit of all. After suffering the economic, social and broader impacts of these past months, when we start to return to some semblance of normalcy, it is useful to reflect on what could be done differently. How could we mitigate the risks and prevent the fallout in future of similar impacts as we head into an uncertain future?

As the former PM of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, noted, our “biggest concern should be that the coronavirus pandemic will change very little or nothing at all. That everything changes, but everything stays the same. That is precisely what happened in 2008: We won the war, in the sense that a total economic meltdown was averted, but we lost the peace.”

If we don’t make use of this historic opportunity we will, in other words, achieve nothing but a Pyrrhic Victory. This was a historical event where a battle between King Pyrrhus and the Roman legions in 280 BCE resulted in a win, but which caused such human casualties that it was in effect a defeat.

The team at Mutu has been using the time of the LockDown to build a new rental marketplace App and website to promote and support sustainability, the sharing economy and financial inclusion, among others. When the App will be launched this year, we could proudly call it a LockDown baby. What has this taught us so far?

The collaboration to build the App and our website has been global and built upon the excellent digital infrastructure we possess in New Zealand, allowing for seamless remote teamwork and collaboration. We have in effect not lost any time but actually accelerated our developments. Similarly, in reflecting on our legacy and historical industries that have sadly suffered so much during the LockDown, we believe a redirection of our focus on digital exports is much warranted. Especially because these are not based on person to person contact to take delivery. They can be packaged and sent digitally reducing the obvious shipping costs we suffer Down Under to send traditional commodities like meat and dairy produce. They are therefore more sustainable due to lower emissions produced over the full life cycle of development of any meat or dairy plus the shipping required. They are above all value-added and inclusive, unlike commodities.

Our own much honoured and trusted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted in a similar vein in 2018, on the occasion of her UN Speech titled Kindness and Kaitiakitanga “Within a few short decades we now have a generation who will grow up more connected than ever before. Digital transformation will determine whether the jobs they are training for will even exist in two decades. In education or the job market, they won’t just compete with their neighbour, but their neighbouring country.

This generation is a borderless one — at least in a virtual sense. One that increasingly sees themselves as global citizens. And as their reality changes, they expect ours to as well — that we’ll see and understand our collective impact, and that we’ll change the way we use our power.”

We, therefore, encourage our collective thinking in New Zealand (and Australia) to consider the massive potential the digital economy holds, already at NZ$ 11 billion worth of export value per annum in New Zealand. This is around half of our biggest export earner, tourism, and therefore a good platform from which to replenish our national reserves and viability going forward. We recommend consideration to improve grassroots Research and Development in the Digital Sector, including government support mechanisms, and equitable access to education in this domain across all societal strata and regions. Distance does make the heart grow fonder as we have found at Mutu, especially in our increasingly digital age, which our (inter)national team aims to be sustainable for all.

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