Covid-19 has had an unparalleled impact on societies and economies worldwide. Nearly instantaneously, the Internet has become a life line that links us to the outside world. We depend on it to work, to go to school, and connect with family and friends. It has become our primary source of information and entertainment during extended lockdown periods across the globe. Consequently, the adoption rates of many technologies, apps and platforms will accelerate in the future as people have become more digitally minded and embraced technology while working from home.
More people are using the video-conferencing software Zoom in the first two months of 2020 than in all of 2019. Cloudflare, a US company providing network infrastructure to businesses around the world reports that its Internet traffic increased by around a quarter in many major cities between January and late March 2020.
The role the Internet is playing in connecting people in these days of social distancing is evidenced by how social media users are utilising WhatsApp, Facetime, or Facebook messenger to stay connected.
In addition to regular emails and supplementary WhatsApp groups, businesses are using Skype, Microsoft Teams,Zoom, etc. to both stay connected and coordinate tasks with colleagues. Some have a conference call once a day to check-in with each other and plan their work for the day. While it may be argued that office calls can also be conducted over audio calls, video conferencing is preferred as a closer replacement of face to face meetings.
The necessity of the Internet was apparent following President Ramaphosa’s address on 23 March when a Debt Relief Fund was launched to help alleviate the harsh economic impact on all small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) and they had to apply for relief on existing debts and payments online.
Despite these measures Bernard Swanepoel, Executive Director of Small Business Institute states: “Small business needs to rethink their business model. They also need to rethink their dependency on big business and government”. Consequently, businesses are using the Internet to stay connected with customers and maintain awareness of services that cannot be rendered during the lockdown. Maintaining visibility to customers during this time is crucial.