COVID-19 has triggered unprecedented change, causing business disruption in some sectors and sparking massive growth in others. In the following, we examine the impact of the pandemic on the tech industry.
Prior to the onset of COVID-19, societies around the world were already moving toward digitization. The arrival of this new and highly contagious virus expedited the transition, with social distancing requirements and nationwide lockdowns making digitization not only a choice, but a necessity.
Today, many day-to-day tasks are digitized. We shop online, work from home, complete virtual job searches, attend online healthcare appointments, and use digital banking services. The Internet maintains connections between friends and family. Digitized platforms enable us to access banking services and financial support, as well as keep us physically active through virtual exercise programs. However, all of this is wholly reliant on our ability to access to the Internet.
The pandemic has changed the way that people use the Internet. According to a UK survey, 75% of people between the ages of 50 and 70 reported that they were making more video calls due to COVID-19. Specifically, 3 in 10 people reported sending more emails than they did in the past. According to Lloyds Bank, three times more 70-year-olds signed up for online banking services in 2020 as compared to the previous year.
Global shift to digitization
Nevertheless, the pandemic has emphasized the divide between the “haves and have nots.” With many services moving online, offering only limited offline resources, the global shift to digitization has placed individuals who lack access to the Internet at higher risk.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments around the world to address the issue of digital inclusion and has enabled individuals to go online and support vulnerable people who find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Digital inclusion requires the right infrastructure. Members of the public must be able to afford a device, be it a computer, a tablet, or mobile phone. They need access to the Internet via mobile data, Wi-Fi, or broadband. In addition, members of the public must possess the digital skills required to use digital devices, to access the Internet and to stay safe online. Certain individuals, such as those with disabilities, may face accessibility issues and require assistive technology to help them obtain online access.
Seniors are at greater risk of being left behind in the migration to digital services. According to one survey, by 2019 83% of people ages 65 to 74 reported using the Internet on a frequent basis. However, that still leaves 17% of seniors on the wrong side of the divide. Experts predict that digital exclusion will not disappear overnight, leaving society’s most vulnerable demographics at a significant disadvantage.
Changes in global working practices
The pandemic has led to a significant disruption in the electronics value chain. Shortages in raw materials have sparked significant inflationary risks on certain products.
Lockdowns and social distancing policies were implemented by countries all over the world. In order to remain operational, many companies have had little choice but to embrace teleworking, despite showing significant resistance.
The COVID-19 pandemic effectively sparked a revolution in working practices across multiple industries, one that market analysts predict will change the world of work long after COVID-19.
Shifts in education
By mid-March, 50,000 schools were closed across 22 states due to COVID-19, with 26 million students missing class due to nationwide efforts to stem the transmission of the coronavirus.
Educational facilities were forced to quickly adapt and evolve, embracing emerging digital technologies at lightning speed as part of a rapid transition to remote learning practices. They made significant strides, delivering safe and effective virtual teaching in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, the transition highlighted widespread inequities in terms of digital access.
Globally, 47% of students lack Internet access in their homes. Governments around the world have been forced to address inequities to prevent learning losses in communities that are underserved.
With several vaccines currently awaiting FDA approval, an end to the COVID-19 crisis may be in sight. However, even after a nationwide vaccination program gets under way, it is unlikely that COVID-19 will disappear overnight.
Contactless payments and deliveries have largely become the default option, minimizing contact between people in order to limit the spread of the virus. Experts anticipate that “contactless everything” could be here to stay, sparking massive technological innovation with a new generation of apps, hardware, and software entering the market to prevent contamination.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, female workers were 1.8 times more likely to lose their jobs than men. The pandemic has pushed gender equality into the national conversation.
Remote working could prove to be a catalyst in terms of addressing the imbalance, providing the vital flexibility required by family caregivers. The move toward teleworking could prove to be a powerful incentive, not only in terms of promoting equality, but in sparking exponential technological growth—from online security systems to hardware—as employees transition to the virtual working world.