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South Africa embraces tech against the pandemic 

Mounir Jamil

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South Africa

As the Coronavirus continues to spread, businesses, governments, startups and citizens in South Africa are all playing their part. While the death toll remains low, infections have not decreased as initially hoped. 

Tech companies, government and big businesses are putting their best foot forward to fight the pandemic while harnessing tech innovations. Inside Telecom sheds light on some of the instances where tech is playing a major part in combatting COVID-19 and opening up new ways for South Africans to work and connect.

Utilizing WhatsApp for communications

As WhatsApp is the most popular communication platform and app in the country, the Department of Health rapidly adopted WhatsApp to help support citizens (over 15 million messages), and it was made available to 1.5 million citizens within the first week in five different languages. The helpline allows users to send questions or queries and receive automated messages and responses. It also makes use of the latest updates from the World Health Organization 

Government partners up with tech

The South African government has reached out to tech recruitment company OfferZen claiming that, “it is critical that the government works collaboratively with South African tech companies and individuals to leverage our tech capabilities in the fight against COVID-19”. This has sparked up several initiatives such as Vulnerable Communities Map that makes use of publicly available data to highlight and identify vulnerable communities. 

Pandemic pushes e-commerce forward

Before COVID-19, South Africa was behind in e-commerce and home delivery, however, the pandemic accelerated growth and made online business a reality for its citizens. Food supplier Daily Dish was given essential supplier status while the lockdown ensued in South Africa, they witnessed their customer base jump up 150 percent. Competitors such as OneCart also reported a surge in business, and there are hopes that these new behaviors or shopping patterns will outlast the pandemic. 

Telkom Operator works on contact tracing

South Africa’s largest telecommunications company, Telkom, has teamed up with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), to develop and implement a track and trace solution that works by identifying people who may have contracted the virus.

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Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

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MedTech

Birth of Autonomous Vehicles

Mounir Jamil

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Global transportation in general was one the main victims of the pandemic that has literally crippled this sector.

Authorities in most countries have either shut down borders, or applied stringent conditions to limit private cars and public transport movement to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Faced with this dilemma, tech companies went back to their drawing boards to find a solution for this crucial issue.

One of the solutions that are now surfacing was development of autonomous vehicles, or as known on the streets as the self-driving car.

This technology is hugely adopted by Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, parent company of Google that offer a fully autonomous and commercial self-driving taxi service operating solely in Arizona, U.S.

In an interview with Financial Times, John Krafcik, Waymo CEO warns about some of the biggest challenges of the industry, mainly being the recurrent need for continuous safety standards.

But with zero or minimal traffic right now due to the pandemic, we examine some factors that will surely revitalize autonomous vehicles adoption across several industries.

New boom in eCommerce will spike demand for autonomous vehicles for delivery and logistics

As more people are cooped up inside their homes, we find ourselves resorting to online methods to satisfy our shopping needs.

Be it the ease of use, practicality, or privacy that eCommerce has to offer – it is certainly a growing industry, and one that witnessed a major boom during the pandemic.

As this industry grows, it will have new business needs being created and old ones that need to be reevaluated. A major issue in the online industry is transportation and logistics, and as the world heads down a smarter path, key industry players are eyeing autonomous vehicles.

The tech comes in as an attractive option as it can increase the capacity of delivery networks, reduce costs greatly, increase safety, offer real-time digital insights and with a pandemic on the loose it even complies with social distancing measures.

Courier giant DHL attested to the perks that can be brought forward with self-driving technology as they believe that time savings thanks to autonomous technologies will reduce transportation costs per km by 40 percent.

Self-driving cars can also help erode the problem of aging truck drivers in developed countries around the world.

As the current number stands to be 50 years on average for truck drivers, several logistics companies are having recruitment problems trying to retain or hire new truck drivers.

Self-Driving Cars and Health Industry

Earlier this year, self-driving cars made the news when they proved their worth as a safe alternative in the healthcare industry.

At a much-needed time where our front-line health workers are being stretched thin and resources are barely being able to be allocated, and for the first time in U.S history autonomous vehicles are being used to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 results at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, U.S.

The system works by having four completely autonomous shuttles. operating along an initial route, without anyone on board and they transport COVID-19 test samples that are placed in secure containers prior the shuttles arrival.

If you are having trouble imaging in it, check out this video that demonstrates the no human shuttle below.

This use sheds light on the actual benefits that self-driving cars can have, on the healthcare industry, but what if we step it up a bit?

Imagine smart cities, the next level of technology and development – a city where everything is connected, everything can be monitored, and of course everything works like the click on a clock.

In these smart cities, autonomous transportation will be pushed to a new level.

 A while back, automotive giant Audi have partnered with German Karslruher Institute for Technology on a research project dubbed “25th Hour – Flow” and simulated what will happen when automated driving becomes more widespread.

The results are stunning to say the least. Just judge for yourself.

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MedTech

Why the cinema industry after Covid-19 will endure

Adnan Kayyali

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cinema industry after Covid-19

A recent report predicts a hopeful trend for the cinema industry after Covid-19 after revenues took a crippling 95 percent dive in the past year. Since movie theaters stopped being an option for weekend outings and entertainment, Box Office films saw a devastating drop in ticket sales across the board.

It is partly due to the vacuum left behind by movie theatres and box offices that has led to video streaming giants such as Amazon, Netflix, and Disney + take off. The world has seen an unprecedented demand for video streaming subscriptions, turning living rooms into home theatres with increasing ease.

The three companies account for more around half of all paid video subscriptions worldwide, excluding China. Netflix holds the top position, followed closely by Disney, and Amazon.

A report by Omdia, however, is hopeful that this is not the end, but a new beginning for cinemas and movie theatres.

A slow and methodical recovery is awaiting the cinema industry after Covid-19 as the vaccines reach more people, lockdowns slowly ease, and people’s desires to see movies again grow louder.

Experts forecast that movies revenues in 2021 will climb to around $19 billion, a 106 percent increase. Still, revenues will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, reports say.

There will likely be certain segments of people who will shun movies theaters for a long time as they grew accustomed to online home entertainment.

However, the regular movie goers will be itching to return to high tech theaters and relish the special effects and wide screens offered in these places.

But until the movie theaters return to normal, people will settle for the hoe theatre.

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MedTech

Pandemic Winners, Losers, and the Underdog

Mounir Jamil

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As our society reflects in agony upon the devastation caused by the pandemic, one can’t help but examine the direct effects of this deadly virus on our daily work in offices and closed rooms.

This reflection also leads us to the big question: which companies remained standing on boxing ring?

It’s safe to say that the tech sector has weathered some of the most disruptive effects of the pandemics relatively well, thanks to its agile adaptation speed, and how fast new tech is rolling out into the market.

But not all the players in the tech game have managed to smoothly sail the tides of the pandemic.

And it is too early to determine whether pandemic related shifts in usage and IT tactics will remain permanent.

However, some areas of the computing world have seen a boost while others are withering away.

Video Conferencing vs. Office Management Tools

The biggest and easiest to spot out of the pandemic winners is hands down the videoconferencing ecosystem, which is evident by the skyrocketed demand due to shifts in education and remote work.

Take Zoom as an ideal example; that literally saw sales boom during the pandemic and took advantage to develop their own niche marketplaces that offer specialized extensions for several industries including education and finance.

There won’t be a winner without a loser.

And in this case the losing counterpart that took a major hit during the pandemic is software and hardware packages that are aimed at simplifying our day in the physical office.

As long as we are continuing to work from home, enterprises specializing in software for scheduling rooms or office productivity will continue to witness a drastic decline in their demands.

Another player that is taking up a beating is the RFID chip segment whereby tools that are built around detecting and directing people using physical presence will not be a major focus – until we return back to our offices.

Collaboration Tools is where it’s at

The pandemic has certainly underscored the dire need for office tools that enable coworkers to collaborate on documents and presentations, rendering this technology as another major contender amongst pandemic winners.

Moreover, this new increased demand can be expected to stay around long post-pandemic as several business leaders are realizing the full benefits of remote working – and to be honest, might be getting a bit too comfortable with it!

A noticeable trend to point out here is the rise of online collaboration tools that support marketplace that enables third parties to offer extensions that add functionality to all platforms. Prime examples are Zoho that specialize in online productivity tools and SaaS applications, and Salesforce that offer SaaS solutions specific to customer relationship management (CRM).

The Underdog: Cloud

An overall analysis at pandemic winners and losers would not be complete without mentioning the unsung underdog in all of this, and in our case it is definitely cloud computing.

As cloud deployment and adoptions are only gaining traffic, numbers aggregated from Statista indicates that In 2020, the public cloud services market is predicted to reach around $257.5 billion in size and by 2022 market revenue is forecast to exceed $362.3 billion.

Cloud services have greatly met our expectations when we needed them the most, and industries will be increasingly adopting them in the near future.

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