Digitisation in both the private and public sector spaces is the key to surviving the current lockdown. It is digitally transformed businesses in both sectors that are the key to kick-starting the economy again.
The COVID-19 crisis is the one thing on everybody’s mind at present, not only due to the life-threatening nature of the pandemic, but also because of the manner in which it is reshaping the way we do business. The need to practice social distancing, coupled with the manner in which the economy has effectively been shut down is driving the creation of new approaches and better ways of doing things.
The organisations that are finding they are haemorrhaging money in the current environment are mostly those that have been slow in implementing digital channels, says Abdul Moosa, CTO for South Africa and English-speaking Africa at CoCre8.
“On the other hand, where technology businesses have already digitally transformed, they are finding their revenue numbers soaring. For example, those that provide cloud services are doing fine, due to the cloud’s ease of use and the ability for customers to acquire these services easily. On a global scale, we are also seeing e-commerce providers delivering goods en masse, with the concomitant doubling or even tripling of their revenue,” he says.
“The main reason these enterprises are being so successful is due to their ability to leverage data analytics to more clearly understand their customers, which thus enables them to rapidly change their business models to suit the new requirements demanded by the current situation.”
Furthermore, he adds, leveraging digital allows these players to increase their levels of innovation and implement new services rapidly, in order to drive things forward. Innovations, in turn, create additional new jobs, which changes the dynamics of the economic situation, and hopefully also leads to further innovation and job creation.
“Moreover, think of the impact improved digitisation can have in the public sector sphere. A more digitised government will be better placed to make positive changes and have a deeper impact in impoverished communities, by opening up access to avenues these citizens did not have before. Examples here would be citizens obtaining skills via digital learning channels and using these new channels to foster new entrepreneurial opportunities.
“Naturally, the challenge for government in accelerating such digital services lies in the slow pace of its procurement policies and its lack of ability to properly engage with the private sector because of this. After all, there are already solutions available that are able to track the impact and spread of the coronavirus, all that is needed is for government to begin engaging with the organisations, while forgetting about who will benefit upstream or downstream from this.”
It all comes down to government’s attitude and aptitude to move quickly enough, he continues, suggesting that now might be the time for the public sector to put together a technology panel to consider such solutions and implement the best ones as soon as possible.
“In other words, what is required is a technology-first approach, which would be perfectly in keeping with the proposed move towards a fourth industrial revolution (4IR) mindset. It’s about overcoming the old-school thinking within government and realising the tools, partnerships, ecosystem and information is all already available – all it requires is the right advisors and levels of buy-in from government, and these solutions should be able to be implemented very quickly.”
At the same time, he adds, South Africa has come to realise – now that the lockdown is making it difficult to import electronics – that it needs to be more self-sustainable when it comes to things like electronic manufacturing. This could help push the country in the direction of creating its own goods, rather than exporting raw materials and importing finished products.
“This means there is a huge opportunity to leverage an approach like this to help kick-start the economy. Remember that in the ecosystem of electronic manufacturing, opportunities abound for people with a wide range of differing skills, from electronics designers to artisans to those who service, install and configure the devices. Beyond this, each vertical market requires its own specialists, meaning the opportunities and attendant job creation will grow exponentially, which is exactly what is required to get the economy purring again,” he concludes.