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How technology is helping businesses during COVID-19

As covid spread far and wide businesses find ways to cope with the situ via new online based tech an

26 December 2020 12:59 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As lockdown came commonplace, many businesses resorted to online meetings and coordination of work.

 

COVID 19, first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019, has, within just a few months, infected almost every corner of the world. The uproar in safety concerns, resulting in the implementation of measures such as lockdowns, forced many businesses to cease production temporarily. The lockdown led to many industries experiencing losses throughout the year 2020. Early estimates predicted that the virus would result in major economies losing at least 2.4% of the value of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 


Since then, restriction in social contact has resulted in many aspects of the global economy worsens. For example, rising inflation rates led to factors such as financial exchanges and the stock markets of countries facing many difficulties. 

The lockdown led to many industries experiencing losses throughout the year 2020. Early estimates predicted that the virus would result in major economies losing at least 2.4% of the value of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

 


These economic losses resulted in businesses from plenty of industries, especially sectors such as tourism and international trade, facing significant obstacles and suffering greatly throughout this year.


These global declines caused major tolls on the Sri Lankan economy. Business activity crippled throughout 2020. According to Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics, there have been significant contractions, during the period mid of June until the end of July 2020, in most industries islandwide. 

For large scale establishments, total outputs have reduced. For example, Manufacturing by 23%, with manufacturing activities including Coke and refined petroleum products, Basic metals and Wearing apparel contracting by more than 30% in the second quarter of 2020.


For large scale establishments, total outputs have reduced. For example, Manufacturing by 23%, with manufacturing activities including Coke and refined petroleum products, Basic metals and Wearing apparel contracting by more than 30% in the second quarter of 2020.


However, through these difficult months, both local (Sri Lanka based), and international businesses began to find alternative, technological methods in order to continue daily business activities and stay connected with their customers, hence assisting them in reducing and overcoming the hardships firms faced through this financial year.
Ways in which technology-assisted firms:


Collaboration tools- Government implemented measures such as aggressive social distancing, resulting in a great proportion of the Sri Lankan society being under curfew for over 2 months, meant enterprises were obliged to work from home. 

The lockdowns also lead to innovations, like the mobile supermarket 


Therefore, the need for alternative modes of communication occurred. There was an increase in demand for video conferencing, as the use of Technological collaboration tools such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams increased.


These tools helped firms tremendously. It allowed firms to discover an alternative, clear, lower-cost mode of communication which assisted firms not only in day-to-day meetings, but also assisted them in the context of factors such as training employees (Webinars), or sealing deals with clients, enabling firms to remain productive to a large extent. 


The continuation in the running of the business with the use of collaboration tools, combined with the lower cost enjoyed, contributed significantly in helping firms remain competitive throughout this year.


According to Microsoft, until the COVID19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams grew at a gradual, steady pace as they modernised their software on the way. In November 2019, it was announced that Microsoft Teams had 20 million active users. However, starting from early 2020, during the lockdowns, the popularity of the software “skyrocketed”, reaching 44 million users by March and leading on to 75 million by April.


Financial Technology- The Fintech (Financial Technology) industry played a massive role in helping firms overcome the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic. Self-isolation drove many individuals towards finding alternative modes of doing their daily activities such as, shopping or going to a restaurant. 


Therefore, the availability of online payment services such as PayPal, Stripe, or even Local (Sri Lankan) payment systems such as FriMi and Dialog eZ Cash, combined with modes such as cryptocurrencies, including blockchains and bitcoins, (used for privacy protection purposes), assisted firms immensely in developing their online payment mythologies. 


This correspondingly, allowed businesses to introduce new services such as electronic commerce, which too enabled businesses to maintain their operations and profitability.  


Social Media- Nation-wide lockdowns resulted in many consumers being unaware of most business activity that is taking place within the society. There was a drastic increase in the use of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. As a result, businesses were able to use these social media platforms to stay connected with their customers. 


Many Sri Lankan businesses, especially in the food and retail industries, used these platforms to provide customers with information relating to factors such as opening hours, contactless delivery systems and possible offers or discounts. 


Therefore, organisations were able to continue selling their goods and services to their respective customers whilst being under lockdown, thus, helping them maintain continuity.


Safety of employees- The lack of control over the spread of this infectious disease meant that it was essential to making sure employees are safe within the working environment. Technology, once again, assisted entrepreneurs greatly in this context. 


Some simple examples include safety checks for all subordinates, with the use of equipment such as zero contact thermometers, to constant reminders via sources such as email or messenger asking employees to wash their hands or wear a mask, or even training videos that educate employees on measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection. 


However, the new work-from-home culture has made safety check far more complicated for managers. Therefore, the introduction of modernised approaches arose throughout these few months. For example, the collection of worker data and analytics dashboards to validate and analyse the levels of safety and spot any deviations that may need to be addressed, with the use of guided information through sources such as videos, photos, GIFs and PDFs. These measures not only keep employees safe but also kept them satisfied, all of which therefore aided businesses in remaining productive through the downturn.


Tracking and Tracing- Ever since the coronavirus was first identified in December 2019, many countries began to design smartphone apps that revolve around identifying those with symptoms of the virus. Some of the apps include MyHealth in Sri Lanka, or internationally, TraceTogether in Singapore, CovidWatch from the USA and Aarogya Setu from India. 


These apps, that can be downloaded by employees to their smartphones, can act as a safety check tool, especially in places such as retail outlets or restaurants, assisting businesses in identifying any possible individual carrying the virus both within the employees as well 
as customers. 


Besides, many QR code systems were also introduced in business outlets such as banks and supermarkets. How this worked, customers would use their smartphones to scan the QR code available in the outlets and therefore use their assets to fill in any necessary information before entering the venue. This, therefore, limits contact drastically, reducing the likeliness of the spread in the virus, hence, allowing businesses to continue operations safely.


The global economy is going through a challenging time. The economic challenges can be doubled with the impact of the global recession. 


However, the availability of technological substitutions for almost all business activities has truly enabled firms to maintain and continue with their daily transactions and thereby played a huge role in helping enterprises all over the world adapt to this new normal. Therefore, it can be strongly believed that technology helped reduced the possible negative impacts businesses would have faced.


The writer is a freelance writer and currently pursuing a business degree at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

 

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