The Corona crisis has had a huge impact on our society. Office workers had to start working remotely, medical professionals had countless double shifts and delivery companies went into over drive. Winners and losers everywhere – Amazon grew turnover by 25% in the second quarter of 2020, the cloud computing department of Microsoft saw a 47% growth, we all know Zoom barely held it together, spending hundreds of millions on expanding their server farms.
The usual suspects are profting
It is probably not a huge surprise to notice that it is all US companies that grew. Europe doesn’t have much of a Silicon Valley equivalent. There are many reasons for that, not the least are the investment climate, but the European businesses that compete with their US counterparts also experience little support from the EU government while the US is all to happy to put their finger on the scales when it comes to business deals.
A clear case of that are the fights the US has with China, and how Trump announced he wanted to ban TikTok from use. It is hard to imagine he didn’t realize this would have quite some effect on the price Microsoft is likely to pay for TikTok – negotations are ungoing as of this writing.
But between the winners and losers, Europe should see Corona also as a wake-up call and an opportunity. The car industry got shaken up, so did airliners, and indeed any business with a back-office. We have been introduced to remote work, a change that can improve productivity, work-life balance and employment rate. Work across distances allows people to live where they want, and collaborate across organizational and departmental boundaries. It can help to increase the cohesion in distributed organizations and bring people together! It requires different management: not counting hours, but productivity. Trusting people to do their best, bringing out the best in everyone.
So let’s take this as a positive challenge, a chance to do things different. Let’s embrace remote work and digital communication. Let’s modernize management and forge new, productive connections between organizations.
Europe should lead, not follow
Europe CAN play a leading role here, if we’re pro-active and build on the entrepreneurship we have! Instead of falling back to the big, US firms, let’s look at local bussiness and innovation as a driver of growth.
Work with European businesses to build new, collaborative technology. It keeps data in Europe, data we will need to innovate. And it keeps the billions EU governments spend on digital infrastructure in Europe as well, stimulating our economy, innovation and entrepreneurship.
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Frank Karlitschek is the project founder and maintainer, general architect of Nextcloud.
In 2010 Frank started the most popular open source file sync and share solution project during the CampKDE keynote in San Diego and is leading the community project since then. He also founded the company Nextcloud which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.