The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) reports the Coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19 was first seen in an animal market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The report stated that the emergence and spread began from animal-human transference before people began infecting others.
The high rate of transmission of the Coronavirus has led to a global pandemic, causing the government to respond by imposing a lockdown. Households and businesses had to adapt by practicing social distancing and working from home. This has resulted in the spike of the use of teleconferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet. Remote-work tools like Dropbox and Slack has also seen increased demand.
I’m an Entrepreneur-in-Training at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. Ordinarily, we use a combination of in-class sessions and online tools like the Google Suite, Slack, and WhatsApp to learn and communicate with our teaching fellows. But, in response to the COVID challenge, we had to switch the in-class learning sessions to video conferencing on Zoom/Google MEET.
Speaking with employees and business owners across Nigeria, they showed mixed feelings on the impact of COVID-19 on their work and businesses. Tech companies easily adopted teleconferencing with Zoom and remote work tools with Trello and Slack. But, traditional businesses opted towards completely shutting their doors, sending their staff on an undetermined “break” period with the hope that things would return to normal.
The impact of COVID-19 is varied as some businesses are experiencing a boom while others are shutting down. For instance, some E-commerce businesses are experiencing an increase in sales especially those focused on food and beverage sales.
UNESCO reports that as a result of COVID-19, over 80% of the world’s students are not attending school. This challenge presents the perfect opportunity for tech businesses to collaborate with schools. The collaboration will ensure that students are still learning even outside the walls of the classroom.
Google and Zoom are already experiencing explosive demand and are making efforts to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports from The Guardian, states that the videoconferencing tool, Zoom, is experiencing a boom in user growth. On 23rd March, the day the UK announced its lockdown, the app was downloaded 2.13million times around the world.
On the other hand, Google Meet, as mentioned on Business Insider, is making its premium versions free till July. They are doing this to help businesses and schools manage their teams and students remotely in response to the COVID-19 challenge.
In Africa, the emergence of COVID-19 started in March. The earlier identified cases were imported; people traveling into Africa. However, we have begun to see cases where people who had no previous travel history are contacting the virus. And in response, a number of African governments have restricted travel and announced lockdowns to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
People and businesses on the continent are leveraging online tools to communicate and sustain operations. WhatsApp has reported a 40% increase in usage due to the COVID pandemic. Whatsapp became one of the major channels of communication for people and their loved ones.
Across the world, companies are quickly evolving the way they communicate. The COVID pandemic has led to a sharp increase in the adoption of technology by businesses all around the world.
Since direct communication is strained, work from home policies has been rolled out by companies. Therefore, tech companies like Slack, Zoom, Google, Microsoft are the cream of the crop as they offer a means for people to communicate with each other.
Also, technology companies are playing a part in supporting governments to curb the spread of COVID-19 on the continent. A report by Techcrunch highlighted startups in Africa and their activities in combating the virus.
In Kenya, Safaricom, owner of mobile payments service, MPesa, implemented a fee waiver on mobile payments. The implementation is to discourage people from transacting cash, a potential means of transference of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.
In Ghana, the Central Bank issued a directive to mobile money providers to waive charges on mobile money transactions. Also, they placed restrictions on cash withdrawal from active mobile money accounts.
South Africa tech space is at the forefront of reducing the impact of the COVID-19 virus. For instance, Yoco, a mobile payments company for small businesses, is encouraging contactless payment options on its point-of-sale machines. In addition, they are also developing a remote payment product that would enable transfers across its client network via a weblink.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, premier payments company, Paga made a fee adjustment. They are allowing merchants to accept payments from customers for free to reduce cash handling. All to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Technology incubators, accelerators, and early-stage venture capital firms are taking the bull by the horn. They are making funding and support available for engineering teams working on projects aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus on the continent and its resulting social and economic impact.
It is clear that technology companies around the world are best positioning themselves to address the different challenges presented by the COVID-19. No doubt, the way businesses are conducted will change post-COVID. Are you positioning your business to take advantage of the inevitable changes that will happen? It is time to put on our thinking caps. Stay safe.
How is COVID-19 impacting your business? Let us know in the comments.
To keep track of opportunities and solutions tailored to entrepreneurs, follow us on Instagram.