COVID-19 has affected every sector of the economy, including the Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) sector. Telecommunications services across the world have seen a significant increase in demand since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, writes FUNMILOLA GBOTEKU
With over 93.2 million cases of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and staggering casualty figures globally, the pandemic has indeed reached dreadful proportion, leaving trails of economic woes, even in the most advanced countries.
The pandemic has indeed affected every sector of the Nigerian economy, including the Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) sector.
Telecommunications services across the world have seen a significant increase in demand since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expectedly, the rise in demand for data and voice-related services spiked at the wake of the lockdowns in the major cities of the world.
Consumers have had to depend on these services to work from home, maintain social ties, access entertainment and training amongst others.
The industry players have also had to consider postponing new investments such as the 5G network capabilities, in favour of keeping up with current demand.
In spite of the pandemic, the Nigerian telecoms industry appears to be experiencing a boom like its counterpart in the developed economies.
This is on account of the lockdown that has been imposed on major cities of Nigeria (Lagos, Abuja, Ogun) and the need for many organisations to adopt WFH protocols while schools have also had to move to online platforms.
Recently, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) alluded to the increase in the volume of voice and data traffic over the past few weeks, which had necessitated the installation of more fibre-optic cables in the country to boost capacity.
Also some stakeholders shared the view that the wake of COVID-19 was more of gain than pain for the technology sector.
Mr Jide Awe, an Information Technology Expert and Chief Executive Officer of Jidaw Systems Ltd., said that COVID had re-emphasised the importance of telecommunications and digital technologies in the society.
Awe said that without ICT, many vital human and economic activities would have remained stagnant.
He noted that for the creative-minded, it has birthed new forms of services, products, learning, activities, jobs and opportunities.
“For example, though resistance to remote working and learning has always existed, COVID-19 helped many decision makers come to the realisation that remote work can be productive and cost-efficient.
“There have also been gains in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as digital solutions and tech-enabled medical research, collaboration and initiatives have significantly assisted the fight against the coronavirus, “Awe said.
“The disruptive nature of the pandemic changed many lives. Lockdowns, restrictions and ill health result in lack of activity, operations and income. Some jobs have also been lost due to increasing automation.
“Many people had to embrace the value that technology delivers in terms of speed, creativity, relevance and continuity, especially in disruptive and uncertain times, “Awe noted.
The IT expert said that Digital adoption was fundamental to the new normal. Individuals and organisations increasingly consider and adopt digital options to survive and thrive.
He said there was less dependence on manual systems and structures, as there were many tasks that could be better and more efficiently carried out with digital solutions.
“The reality is that some old jobs may no longer be relevant. In addition, some jobs will go with the growing emphasis on contactless approaches.
“Society is gradually veering away from the need for in-person, face to face interactions and physical structures to deliver results.
“While there are job losses, more jobs will be created in the economy than jobs lost. The new environment creates remote work opportunities as well as new and more tech-enabled jobs that are relevant for the emerging environment.”
He, however, noted that Coronavirus had exposed our digital limitations like never before, saying that we were now being forced to learn and work remotely.
Awe pointed out that the deep disparities in digital literacy, access to technologies and the internet within the country were glaring and unprogressive.
Mr Yemi Odutola, the Head of Communications at Women Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) said that the gains of the pandemic were across board for technology.
Odutola said education capacity building for virtual teaching and exploration for tech learning had immensely grown as a result of the pandemic.
“The outbreak has encouraged many to learn online from all over the world and improve reach of teachers to a global population and earnings.
“Also, the government has achieved a far cheaper way of holding meeting via virtual means, a new way to economise resources and moving forward. The outbreak has encouraged many people to start small businesses online as a means of survival.
“There was a surge in data subscription during the initial lockdowns which increased revenues for telcos and encouraged more Nigerians to take advantage of opportunities technology provides,” Odutola said.
He, however, said online fraud increased during the period which had so many women duped and identity used for illicit cyber activities.
Odutola noted that many people had issues with financial transactions which were challenged at some point during the lockdown, saying that some individuals who were not tech savvy were left behind during the lockdown.
He also pointed out that using technology for survival was an extra cost many had to manage because their incomes were dwindling.
Sam Okojere, Director, Banking Services Department, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said that the adoption of technology to meet the ever-growing demands in the payment industry impacted positively on payments system in the country.
He said the adoption of technology resulted in convenience, reliability, improved efficiency, transparency, cost reduction and gave the country international recognition.
He added that in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and restriction of movement, the volume and value of Instant Payment System (NIP) increased by 52.78 per cent and 23.44 per cent in the first half of 2020.
“The increase applies to all other e-payment channels while cheque payment recorded a decrease due to temporary suspension of cheque-clearing from March 30, 2020 to April 27, 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Gbolahan Awonuga, the Secretary of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said that COVID-19 had really transformed the digital ways of life worldwide.
“Most meetings, seminars and conferences are now online. More people are now purchasing data unlike before.
“COVID-19 has made organisational structure cheaper and accessible. Decisions are made online now and these have really created opportunities for innovations,” Awonuga said.
Mr Goriola Sodipo, a staff of 9mobile said that although the virus outbreak had affected so many businesses, the reverse was the case for cable television stations and tech companies.
“From my own perspective, the restriction directives and outbreak has boosted revenue for cable television and providers of online streaming service as more people now rely on electronics for entertainment and church services.” Sodipo said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had several impacts on economic activities, it has also resulted in an exceptional surge for the ICT sector.
The technologies have helped in reducing the spread of the Coronavirus and also helped businesses stay open.
- Gboteku is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Source: The Nation