A chunk of the world considers 2020 among the lost years. But out of the pains of a difficult 12 months came disruption that pushed the world into a dynamic future.
While Covid-19 slowed down most activities last year, crushing economies under its weight, it ushered the world into a new age.
Some forms of technology gained more acceptance in a world that was desperately in need of change and quick adaptation. It came sooner than anticipated by modern-day oracles.
Governments urged citizens to avoid physical contact and use cashless payments, aware of the repercussions of resistance. Populations obliged and went digital.
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As a result, Kenya’s mobile penetration shot up between April and June, according to new data by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
According to an analysis by the industry regulator, the directive by the State on the use of cashless payment systems to contain Covid-19, and the attendant waiver of transaction costs for amounts equal to or less than Sh1,000, played a key role in boosting penetration.
Total net additions for the fiscal year stood at 4.8 million.
Experts say some changes in people’s interaction with technology, prompted in 2020 by the pandemic, puts us in 2025 already.
As people were encouraged to avoid crowding in shopping complexes, online shops thrived. And more people embraced them. Even mainstream retailers went digital, hiring delivery persons to attend to customers from the comfort of their homes.
It was always going to happen, but not this soon. The office environment changed so much that the future of the office setup came under serious scrutiny.
Suddenly, employees could work from home, away from the bustle of the office, and deliver just fine. In some cases, with increased efficiency.
A report from US management consulting firm McKinsey found that 80 per cent of people enjoy working from home, 41 per cent say they are more productive than before, and 28 per cent say they are as productive at home as in the office.
“Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and prefer to work from home rather than in the office,” noted the report.
The train has left the station and there is no going back.
“The adoption of the hybrid model of work, which is a combination of remote work and onsite work, will continue to increase in the post-Covid world,” said Andrew Bourne, region manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation
Bidco Africa Chairman Vimal Shah told The Standard mid last year that the working from home model was an ideal one, as employees ended up doing more and wasting less time on unimportant things in the day.
“The time spent beating traffic, the catching up in the office, tea breaks that spill over into lunch breaks; we have gone into an ideal situation where work hours are well defined and are more.”
Meetings also become easier and timelier, Vimal says, noting that he could meet leaders and business people from every corner of the world with much less effort.
Online meeting platforms such as Zoom have now received an acceptance they would have barely anticipated.
Recent data from McKinsey & Company shows that the world has vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption.
As tourists got locked out of world-famous destinations due to cessation of movement, the tourism and hospitality sectors were in limbo.
“We had to think outside the box as tourists still wanted the experience of touring the Kenyan jungle,” says James Matindi, chief executive of Sensational Adventures, a tour firm.
He cruised through the Nairobi National Park with a cameraman, a Zoom connection and a livestream to tourists around the globe.
On June 2 last year, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala launched a virtual safari livestream campaign to showcase the country’s most picturesque national parks and reserves.
This was the future brought near. And with schools closed, online classes were key. Some schools and universities administered exams online.
Such has been the transformation that even matatus, at first unwilling to accept digital payments, are fine with it.
On the downside, however, going digital has led to a rise in intrusions and theft of data.