Message from Andries Botha, the President of the South African Chapter of the
System Dynamics Society
Dear fellow system dynamics modellers, as I sit here writing this note to you all, South Africa has
commenced its gradual transitioning out of lockdown for economic and social reprieve. In the
1990’s we speculated about how the workplace will evolve with the rapid change in technology
maturity and innovation in the telecoms and software space to enable remote working together
with 3D immersive technology. For years the technology developed, but the major change did not
happen. And then quite unforeseen, a virus, not the common cold, flu or even HIV, but COVID19,
suddenly transfigures the world into business unusual. When the WHO declared COVID19 as a
global pandemic, many strategic decisions were made by various governments to curb the rampant
spread of the pandemic together with management strategies to allow health systems and countries
to expand and develop the capacity to handle the illness.
South Africa executed deliberated actions. A national lockdown, yet we gave people two days
warning to allow them to spread all over the country, potentially spreading the virus to rural areas
where there is even less infrastructure to cope with a pandemic of this nature. While the sale of
alcohol and cigarettes would be banned, people got enough time stock up and get ready.
More importantly, companies and individuals started giving serious attention to the tools and
mechanisms to allow staff to work from home. I personally managed to get my desktop (old school,
no work laptop) set up to access the company virtual private network (VPN) with full video and voice
available. Four days into lockdown we had learnt so much about the various tools for video
conferencing. The VPN capacity was insufficient – get up early, logon and don’t release your slot.
The network capacity was inadequate – switch video off and don’t stress about dress code.
During this time we had our second training session for the system dynamics modelling competition
and we for the first time managed to have a very effective system using Google Meet. It would have
worked as well with Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Unlike the problems we had with our corporate
Skype, which is great if the full team works for the same company. At the time we decided to
refocus the competition modelling problem on COVID19.
I would like as many members and non-members to enrol for the competition so we can cover as
wide as possible number of elements. There is of course the basic model around the spread of the
pandemic. Analysing the effect of mitigating policies on the spread and impact of the pandemic to
see if the decision the various governments made had the desired impact. We can however expand
the projects to various economic impacts. Also a better understanding the impact the pandemic on
changing the way we will work in future. For the first time we are looking at call centres effectively
working on a distributed network, with agents working from their homes. How does this affect the
concept of call centres? How does it affect the property development sector that focuses on
developing office blocks? How does this affect office design and layout? What are the implications
of the pandemic repeating itself and people developing immunity or not?
Rather than continuing to ramble, let me just request the following from you.
- Register and join the competition.
- Prepare a paper for the 8th Annual System Dynamics Conference since most of the work will
already have been completed for the competition.
The hybrid conference will be a first for the South African Chapter of the System Dynamics Society,
allowing distance attendance and presentations. We hope you will support our initiatives to increase
system dynamics awareness in Africa and around the world.
All the best for all of you, stay home, stay safe, stay healthy and keep modelling.
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