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Covid-19 has fast-tracked digital transformation and vaulted us five years into the future

Technology has played a crucial role in keeping societies around the world resilient and functional (and some say sane) during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the light at the end of the tunnel remains dim, some trends may have a long-lasting impact into 2021 and beyond.

If there’s one crucial thing that Covid-19 and the various stages of lockdown have taught us, it’s the need for digital readiness. Take a look at some technology trends that Covid-19 has accelerated into 2021.

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Education technology (EdTech)

Digital learning is not a new concept but previously, it was mostly limited to higher education courses. Almost overnight, Covid-19 shut down physical education establishments around the world, leaving teachers and students to quickly adopt digital learning.

In Malaysia, students embraced online teaching and facilitation (PdPc), and teaching and learning (PdP) tools via applications such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, and WhatsApp. The problem is, not all of Malaysia has been equipped with the infrastructure for high-speed internet access.

University Malaysia Sabah student Veveonah Mosibin made headlines when she had to scale a tree in her hometown of Pitas, Sabah, in order to get an internet connection to sit for her exams online. Her vlog prompted the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to say it would install a new telecommunications tower nearby to improve connectivity and upgrade coverage in the area to 4G.

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Remote workforce

While millions lost their jobs and had their lives upended, Covid-19 has also compelled organisations and companies en masse to adopt remote working to ensure business continuity—a boon for some but a bane for others. This is because for some jobs in some sectors, such as manufacturing and agriculture, work from home (WFH) is just not possible.

On the flip side, those who are able to WFH suddenly found themselves having to grapple with other challenges such as communication, productivity, teamwork, efficiency, costlier home utility bills, burnout (grey area between work-life and home-life), access to office equipment, isolation, and more.

See also: 4 Leaders Tell Us How To Thrive In A Hybrid Work Environment

With no end to Covid-19 in the foreseeable future, social distancing and WFH will continue to have profound effects on the workforce, and we’ll have to keep pivoting priorities and tech-ing up to accommodate the new normal.

Read more: 8 Creative Professionals In Asia And Their Imaginative Workspaces

Digital entertainment

The lack of outdoor activities and real-life interactions saw a big uptake in media consumption. In particular, people gravitated towards online entertainment and gaming, which then grew by leaps and bounds.

A Malaysian Digital Association study revealed that Netflix gained 195 per cent in sequential traffic in March 2020 while visits to homegrown streaming service Tonton jumped 232 per cent. Sequential traffic to local subscription service dimsum and Asian drama streaming service Viu saw an increase of 140 per cent.

According to Google Malaysia, 2020 saw more than 35 per cent watch time increase across YouTube Malaysia and 60 per cent watch time increase of YouTube on TV. Meanwhile, casual gaming saw a boost in popularity since the MCO in March 2020, raking in five times watch time increase for casual gaming videos.

Read more: Netflix Will Release New Original Movies Every Week In 2021


Entertainment aside, the spike in digital consumption can also be attributed to Malaysians making the radical shift to e-commerce, both the business owners as well as the shoppers. Between March 1 and October 31 last year, a total of 373,213 entities registered their businesses with the Companies Commission of Malaysia under the online category.

A Janio survey showed that 60 per cent of respondents have been making more purchases online as compared to pre-Covid times. prioritising essential food and household items.

Echoing that sentiment is data from online stores of supermarket chain Jaya Grocer and grocery delivery service HappyFresh. The stores saw the biggest jumps in sequential traffic in the third week of March, with activity up by a whopping 600 per cent compared to the first two weeks of the month.

The need for speed

Taking into consideration all of the above, it was made clearer than ever before that everyone needed faster connectivity—and the Covid-19 pandemic intensified this demand.

Malaysia had previously drafted a five-year plan to develop its network infrastructure in preparation for 5G, but that was scrapped when Covid-19 happened. MCMC had to accelerate its plans and a new national digital infrastructure project, known as Jendela, will spearhead Malaysia’s transition to 5G, a game-changer for many industries.

“Industries that will benefit the most from 5G are those heavily impacted by Covid19 in terms of increasing demand for applications and services. These industries include healthcare, education, and the public sector. The use of digital or virtual applications and remote services within these industries will become the norm, and 5G will be a priority for data-intensive applications,” Frost & Sullivan wrote.

If all goes as planned, MCMC will roll out 5G technology by the end of 2022 or early 2023, and close the digital gap.

Read more: 3 CEOs On The Future Of Fintech In Malaysia Post-CMCO

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