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COVID-19 AND THE TECH INDUSTRY:WHEN THE DUST SETTLES  /
May 6, 2020
Viktoriya Polyarush Social Media Coordinator, an avid reader with the passion for technology.

COVID-19 has evidently become our new reality, so by now you know almost everything about this virus, commonly known as the coronavirus, and you know that it’s imposed specific restrictions on any physical meetings of people, already leading to cancellations of conferences, sporting events and social gatherings. However, what is waiting for us once the dust settles? Even if we fight the coronavirus outbreak in the next few months in the best-case scenario, businesses will feel its impact long after it’s gone. So it’s important to have a long-term plan and not be afraid to take painful steps.

Supply-chain analytics provider TrendForce has issued a report assessing the likely impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on tech manufacturing. The coronavirus’s already caused major disruption throughout the tech industry, with huge trade shows cancelled and companies expecting to miss their forecasts. The report breaks its assessments down into individual components as well as product categories to provide a broad overview of the industry.

Smartphone production is projected to decline 12 percent year-on-year this quarter, which would make it the lowest quarter in five years. The supply chain is labor-intensive, so is being heavily hit by the postponement of work resumption, and there will also be shortages of upstream components like camera modules. Several fiber optics suppliers are based in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, and together account for 25% of global production. China’s 5G rollout could be affected due to the greater need for optical fiber cables in next-generation base stations. Video game console manufacturing has been heavily hit as well, but next-generation production shouldn’t be impacted as long as the outbreak can be mitigated by the end of this quarter, since the PS5 and Xbox Series X will be launching in the holiday season.

What can individual businesses do meanwhile to stay afloat? Firstly, human factor matters.  People understand that unprecedented times need unprecedented actions. However, one needs to be open about what is happening and what the company is doing to stay up and running. Launching virus awareness campaigns, communicating changes in company policies and encouraging feedback to make sure everyone is on the same page is crucial. Depending on the size of your company, available resources, and technical restrictions of the projects you are working on, setting up remote work processes will definitely introduce its challenges. Start with analyzing your infrastructure and asking your employees about what they need to switch to the remote for the indefinite period. Then you could run a test launch involving a limited number of people and expand it gradually to the whole organization. The same procedure can be undertaken while coming back to the office. The world after COVID-19 will not be the same. However, every cloud has a silver lining. Those companies that accept the new reality, rethink their strategies, and rebuild their processes today will be able to use opportunities of the new world. Be effective, get things done and stay home if possible.

Mentioning the thriving  industries, we shouldn’t forget that consumers focus much more on their health, thus, testing is the order of the day, whether its Covid-19 tests mandated by healthcare organizations or consumers opting to use private companies to test themselves for different medical conditions. With the right privacy limits in place, the resulting massive increase in healthcare data represents an opportunity for various data and AI specialists to develop useful solutions that will help reduce risks of contagion relieve consumer anxiety while also providing reassurance to help them cope with these difficult times.

Due to self-isolation, consumers who normally visit physical stores are increasingly shopping online with the result that e-commerce is booming especially when it comes to tinned goods, pasta, health and sanitary products.  The uplift in e-commerce may well become permanent if people remain wary of mingling in real life, and increasingly replace shop visits with online purchases.

Besides, cloud services have for many years enabled increasing numbers of employees to become more mobile and agile and embrace new working practices. Thus, cloud computing has helped to create a cloud-enabled workforce – vital for the global digital future and not simply in situations such as those we are facing right now.

However, the demand for IoT projects in many areas are heavily influenced by the broader economic impact that the virus is having on economies and on overall investment. Limited availability of manpower will slow rollout of smart meters and other large-scale IoT device deployments. The automotive sector has seen a sharp decline in demand for new cars with dramatic impact on production, and it’s clear that there will be a slowing in the pace of deployment of advanced automotive manufacturing that requires heavy capital investment, as well as a slowing in the growth rate for connected cars due to the overall slowing of new sales. The oil and gas sector is also suffering from extreme demand drops and collapsing prices, which will undoubtedly impact appetite for IoT investment. Digital signage is seeing a precipitous drop in demand due to the cancellation of outdoor events such as the Olympics and more limited demand for digital roadside and public advertising.

The challenges Covid-19 presents to different sectors means it’s hard to go generic about how to turn a crisis into an opportunity — airlines and travel companies for example will struggle to re-engineer their business models fast enough to offset the massive damage being done to their bottom line. In sectors that are less impacted by the epidemic, businesses need to fundamentally rethink what creates value, what is important right now and in the future, and what role digital innovation can play in making new things happen. Companies which stay human and customer-focused and manage to quickly innovate new digital businesses to solve problems created by the new conditions are best placed to seize any upcoming opportunities. Right now it’s essential for businesses to create and maintain a strong and pervasive digital culture. As work become increasingly remote, leadership styles, mindsets, habits and ways of working matter now more than ever. Winning cultures encompass trust in people, transparency of work, caring for others, as well as continuous learning. Nurturing these important values during difficult times will ensure that companies retain their digital talent, get things done and continue to thrive.