The ICT sector has demonstrated its resilience in the face of crisis a number of times over the years. During the 2008-2009 economic recession, which had led to a decrease in both investment and number of consumers, the sector was said to be in better shape than it was after the crisis of 2001-2002. At the time, already, it was anticipated that it would be instrumental in enabling the positive transformation of the global economy post-crisis.
Now bracing itself for yet another recession due to the spread of the Coronavirus, the ICT sector is being called upon to keep us all connected and productive during the lockdown.
The impact of COVID-19
Even before COVID-19 made its appearance on the global scene, its impact on the ICT sector made itself felt rapidly, with the cancellation of various international events, such as the Mobile World Congress (MWC). The MWC represents a significant exposure opportunity for new products and services. Its cancellation, and that of other ICT-related gatherings across the world, therefore translated into financial losses to thousands of companies. Furthermore, the lockdown in China severely disrupted the supply chain of technological equipment to the rest of the world.
Computer Economics and Avasant’s Coronavirus Impact Index by Industry thus predicts that COVID-19 will have a major impact on the ICT sector, a view that is supported by Andrew Bartels, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester, whose latest forecast points towards a 50% risk that the sector will decline in 2020, especially in terms of equipment spending.
The COVID-19 crisis, an opportunity?
Despite the initial setback, the ICT sector’s response has been encouraging. Indeed, telecommunication companies across the world are taking steps to increase access and affordability. They are offering or upgrading some of their services for free during lockdown, giving their customers the option of delaying payments, waiving Mobile Money fees on small transactions and increasing or removing data caps.
By allowing governments to function and many people to work from home and to remain connected to their loved ones, and keeping information channels open, the ICT sector is proving that it is a primary tool to enable and support the global lockdown that is currently in force.
However, with the uncertainty surrounding the duration of the lockdown, measures need to be implemented. To start off with, there is a need for rapid development in technology to support the increasing demand in bandwidth and videoconferencing, to ensure professional and personal communications, as well as entertainment. Government assistance may also be needed to help control the plethora of information that is currently being disseminated. Finally, Smart City technologies, such as geolocalization systems, can help stem the spread of COVID-19 by enabling the tracking of people who have tested positive.
The ICT sector post-COVID-19
The ICT sector has a history of bouncing back following financial crisis. This ability to recover is now causing the world to look to the sector to help us withstand the current health crisis. As a result, it might find itself in a leading position when it comes to the recovery of the global economy.