Around the globe, the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the business world by spurring a dramatic boom in remote working and e-commerce.

The Virgin Islands could benefit tremendously from this historic shift — but only if it implements progressive strategies and quickly catches up to competitors operating at the cutting edge of the digital age.

Otherwise, it could lose out big-time.

During the pandemic, millions of jobs went remote. Now, many workers have no intention of returning to the office. In other words, remote working is here to stay.

This means that countless employees around the world can suddenly do their job from anywhere they like. And with such a flexible workforce, many brick-and-mortar companies also have unprecedented flexibility as to their own locations.

In this brave new world, the VI has a tremendous advantage: It is a much sought-after destination with pristine beaches, beautiful waters, and a high quality of life. Who wouldn’t want to work where they vacation?

Of course, this is not to say that the territory should open its doors to anyone who wishes to work remotely from these shores. It shouldn’t.

But the VI could benefit tremendously from a carefully targeted strategy designed to attract certain low-impact industries — fintech, for instance — that bring maximum economic benefits with minimum drawbacks.

Such industries could well prove to be the third pillar that is so badly needed to diversify the economy away from financial services and tourism.

This progress, however, can only come if the necessary infrastructure and public policies are in place. That is a big if.

Currently, the VI is poorly positioned to harness the opportunities of the post-Covid digital age.

The most glaring problem is the state of internet service here. Despite urgent calls for improvement for decades, internet speeds are well behind much of the rest of the world. Internet outages are all too frequent. So are electricity blackouts.

Meanwhile, the government’s much-touted efforts to implement its own e-services seem to have stalled. The ill-fated digital work-permit programme — which was billed as a pilot project meant to kick off bigger things — was a poorly designed system that ground to a halt shortly after it launched. Additionally, the government apparently never implemented the digital-nomad visa programme promised during the pandemic, which would have allowed highly paid remote workers to live here and spend the money they earn from abroad.

If the VI is to take advantage of the new remote economy, it must do better. To that end, positive examples aren’t hard to find.

The small northern European country of Estonia, for instance, has transformed its struggling economy in recent decades by making digital technology a cornerstone of its national strategy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, it is lauded as a world leader in the digital sphere despite its relatively small population of around 1.3 million people.

The tiny South Pacific nation of Tonga — one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands — provides lessons as well. A much-touted new cable system laid in 2013 brought internet speeds that rivalled major countries’, but a volcanic eruption earlier this year damaged that system and caused a weeks-long internet blackout.

As the VI plays catch-up, it should learn from such digital leaders without trying to reinvent the wheel.

If it doesn’t move quickly, it will miss out on lucrative opportunities. Worse, the territory’s current economic engines could also face existential threats as the global workforce continues to transform.

As one example, consider the financial services industry. Spurred in part by Hurricane Irma, VI-based financial services companies have set up elaborate cloud-based systems that allow their employees to operate from anywhere in the world. If the VI doesn’t get its digital house in order, those companies may start outsourcing their work elsewhere — thus minimising their economic activity here.

VI leaders, then, must fix their sights on digital excellence and proceed full steam ahead. A good place to start would be a national digital transformation strategy that puts this important area at the top of the government’s priority list.

For the VI, the new digital economy offers a road to a more secure and prosperous future. But without progressive action at all levels, the territory will fall further behind with each passing day.