Alternative pockets: Covid-19, digitalisation

Enock Rukarwa:Investment analyst

THE Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the whole world through morbidity and mortality notwithstanding the socio-economic implications of the pandemic on global economies.

Supply chains have been disrupted by this global pandemic as countries close their borders and effected lockdowns in a bid to contain the ailment. These disruptions are creating wide range of impacts on companies and some have entered into financial distress.

Covid-19 crisis has also exposed major vulnerabilities in company operations and supply chains linked to conditions of work and disaster preparedness.

The government has taken extraordinary steps trying to contain the epidemic such as general confinements and large-scale shutdowns of economic activity as well as issuing aid and recovery packages to support struggling companies and workers. Many listed and private companies have also stepped up to contribute to the containment effort and to soften the economic blow of workers and supply chains.

The virus strain is causing financial distress and liquidity problems for many companies as a result of reduction and cancellation of businesses.

This has impacted workers, whose income and livelihoods are at risk.

While some companies have been able to shield their workforce and chose to keep paying employees albeit suspension of operations, many companies have had to lay off workers or reduce working hours.

Many businesses struggle to identify the right balance of measures and safeguards to protect workers from being exposed or spreading the virus.

In the face of unprecedented changes and impacts on companies own operations and their own supply chains, enterprises have adopted a variety of responses, many actively putting resources logistics, skill an innovative approaches at the service of fight against the pandemic.

Adaptation
Coronavirus is a humanitarian crisis that continues to take a tragic toll of people’s lives. It is also acting as a catalyst for change economically, socially and at corporate level on a scale not seen since wartime.

The scale of change and speed at which it’s happening is shining a bright light on the fact that companies are facing once in a generation shift.

The challenging economic outlook and continued uncertainty is forcing investors to contemplate some difficult choices.

Some are pulling in, making cuts and focusing on riding out the storm.

Others, however, are taking decisive action to make sure that when the crisis ends they will be stronger than they are today.

Enduring the pandemic, businesses need to safeguard and de-risk their operations for continuity and enterprise growth post Covid-19.

Devising response that is rapid and robust to maintain continuity is of paramount importance.

Organisations are increasingly using platforms that support analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning alongside greater automation to drive digital experiences that help their operations to gain insights and become more intelligent.

The world is now operating in a post–digital era, with digital technologies a basic expectation of consumers and businesses alike. Sustained business continuity and success will come to rely increasingly on more human focused experiences and continually adapting to the latest technologies.

For many companies, the only option is to accelerate digital transformation. This implies moving from active experimentation to active scale up supported by on-going testing and continuous improvement.

The disruptions of Covid-19 have underscored the crucial role of technology, from supporting remote working to scaling digital channels for surging customers. Despite the outstanding accomplishments in managing the technology response to the crisis, the many setbacks have highlighted systemic weaknesses.

Successful companies are looking beyond linear value chains and industry boundaries to create dynamic value map. They use technology to encourage collaboration and create shared value in broader digital ecosystems. The recent transformation of workforce is a crucial step forward for digital transformation.

Organisations that have enhanced their IT capabilities and remotely engaged their employees are in a much better position to not only service the unparalleled circumstances but to overcome the short and long-term challenges that will inevitably follow.

While it should be recognised that the immediate benefits of digital interventions may vary between sectors and firms, the adaption of digital solutions can generally help businesses tap new revenue streams, reduce overheads and eliminate pain points.

Zoom, a video conferencing app developed in the United States, has quickly become an essential tool for businesses. It boasts roughly about 200 million daily active users and has quickly surpassed rival solutions produced during the pandemic.

Engaging with customers
One of the core challenges for virtually all businesses during the pandemic is remaining engaged with customers and acquiring new ones.

Many consumer facing stocks and a number of B2B businesses now have Facebook pages with which they present brands, products and services. In addition, usage of platforms like Instagram, where products can be featured visually is on the rise.

Digitalisation challenges
The benefits of digitalisation are clear and the rapidity and scale, with which many digital solutions can be rolled out further, support their adoption.

However, policy-makers should remain cognisant of the complex challenges that are on the other side of the digital coin. These include cybercrime, data privacy, online misinformation, asymmetric market power, platform dominance, persistent digital divide and infrastructure related issues.

Threats of cybercrime and data privacy are both clear and present danger — a nebulous fear stoking the anxieties of businesses and individuals alike.

Prior to the pandemic, reports of hacking incidents and data leaks were already abundant. With Covid-19 containment measures and significant increases in the adaption of digital tools, such incidences are likely to increase further.

Rukarwa is a research and investment analyst at FBC Securities. — enock.rukarwa@fbc.co.zw, www.fbc.co.zw, mobile: +263 777 193 053 or +263 719 193 053. This article was first published in the 2020 Quoted Companies Survey magazine.

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