The pandemic has truly disrupted our lives, organizations, and nations. Work-from home, social distancing, and quarantines have become the new normal. With the bleak prospect of a universal vaccine in the foreseeable future, the World Health organization and nations are already singing the same song – we have to learn to co-exist with the coronavirus. As a result, technology and innovation have been responding to help people adapt to the new ways of life and business.
But not all technological advancements have the same impact for developed and the developing worlds. We noted seven technology trends that is shaping lives, businesses, societies, and nations in developing nations.
1. Say goodbye to your office – the virtual office becomes real
A recent global survey conducted by 451 Research revealed that close to 80 percent of organizations surveyed have implemented or expanded universal work-from-home policies as a result of COVID-19, while 67 expect these policies to remain in place either permanently or for the long-term.
This has paved the way for massive adoption of and innovation in collaboration, video conferencing, and work-from-home technologies. Zoom, reportedly, have read 300 million daily users, more that 50 percent jump from pre-pandemic numbers. There have been vigorous innovations in remote work technologies, notably in the areas of employee engagement, meeting schedulers, collaboration, and event virtual reality for presentations. All of these technologies are inexpensive and developing-country-friendly.
2. Automation leaps ahead
With limited human mobility in the current environment, organizations have resorted to automating many of the processes to gain efficiencies and potentially reduce costs in the recession-stricken world.
According to the Breaking Analysis report, “automation initiatives that reduce human labor that is not value add has been gaining traction for the past 18 months”. Furthermore, “the pandemic has accelerated the focus on such efforts and robotic process automation (RPA) along with machine intelligence have been beneficiaries”.
In another report by The Ken, “Covid-19 has forced India’s $33 billion BPO industry to push for automation while evaluating the future of 1.3 million employees”. The business process outsourcing sector has been adopting RPA many of its processes before the pandemic; but it has now been accelerating the last few months.
3. The doctor will see you now..online
Since the start of the quarantine, I have used KonlsutaMD, a telehealth service that’s available 24/7, allowing me to have access to skilled and licensed Filipino doctors who can provide medical assessment and advice. Many doctors have resorted to simpler tools such as messaging and video conferencing platforms to provide their services to patients.
Even the Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines has developed a framework for telemedicine services in a bid to improve access to health services during the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Indeed, telemedicine is on the rise. In fact, research firm Frost & Sullivan recently issued a report asserting that we will see a “tsunami of growth” in telehealth. It’s use is up more than 64% due to COVID-19 and expected to increase seven-fold by 2025.
4. Data collaboration breaks down borders and walls
The lockdowns and quarantines in different parts of the world have forced professionals and organizations to reach out to each other and collaborate using digital tools, analytics, and cloud computing.
More than 150 countries engaged in COVID-19 vaccine global access facility of the WHO, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Even the traditional walls around educational institutions have been broken down to allow online collaboration among universities, professors, and teachers across developed and developing countries to mutualise existing online educational resources.
5. Innovation is wiping out microbes
The shortage in medical equipment, PPEs, and even alcohol have urged scientists, innovators, and ordinary citizens to devise new ways to help. For instance, in the Philippines, a low-cost test kit to detect coronavirus infection was invented by scientists from the University of the Philippines.
The Mexican company XE Medical Engineering, inspired by neonatal chambers that protect newborns from external bacteria and viruses, reversed the product and developed an isolation capsule to keep pathogens from escaping, lowering the chance of it spreading to health workers.
There are scores of innovations across the globe to fight pathogens and microbes. We will see a spurt of growth in such technological advancements in the years to come.
6. Food technology and eating healthy to manage the next pandemic
Home gardening blooms around the world during coronavirus lockdowns, driven by people’s desire grow food in the backyard as well as make this activity a therapeutic one. This is also the call by the WHO and health departments around the world to eat healthy to boost the immune system against the coronavirus.
In Namibia, Africa, urban residents tap into vertical gardening for food amid COVID-19. One company, iFarm based in Finland, has developed via hydroponics, the automated vertical farm management technologies that allow to start growing salads, spicy herbs, berries and vegetables quickly in the urban environment, which to-date has launched 11 industrial farms in Finland, Russia and Kazakhstan with a total planting area of more than 8,000m².
7. The new reality brings new cyber threats— cybersecurity is fighting back
The pandemic has open opportunities for hackers to prey onto the distracted citizenries of countries. In fact, the WHO noted that there’s a five-fold increase in cyberattacks and urges people and organizations to be vigilant. Deloitte’s Cyber Intelligence Centre reported a spike in phishing attacks, Malspams and ransomware attacks as attackers are using COVID-19 as bait to impersonate brands thereby misleading employees and customers.
Developing countries are fighting back with nations and organizations investing gin making their cybersecurity more robust and resilient. Developments in incorporating artificial intelligence into cybersecurity solutions are also progressing, to effectively detect and stop cyber-attacks.
(Originally published in Manila Bulletin, August 26, 2020)
Reynaldo Lugtu Jr is Co-Founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. And has engaged with several companies and organizations on digital transformation and innovation.
He is a digital and culture transformation thought & action leader, a sought-after public speaker, and an accomplished educator, author, business columnist, and innovation coach. And is a business columnist and writer for Manila Times, Manila Bulletin, and Business World.
Ray is the Country Representative of the Institute of Change and Transformation Professionals Asia (ICTPA). He is also Professorial Lecturer in the MBA program of De La Salle University and Lecturer on Digital Transformation, Leadership and Management in the Benilde – School of Professional and Continuing Education.