Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Growth & Jobs | Embracing digital opportunities in COVID-19

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2020 | 12:06 AM

Experts in the field of technology are encouraging businesses to take advantage of the digital opportunities for growth that are now available due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kevin Clarke, manager, digital and social media, at The Jamaica National Group, said that perhaps no incident has been more impactful in driving the country’s adoption of and adaptation to digital tools and spaces than COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has truly brought us into the digital age and has brought with it opportunities that we can certainly capitalise on to move careers, businesses, and how we communicate with each other,” he said.

Clarke made the point while addressing the JN Bank Redesigning Your 2020 Goals online series. The social-media series, which started on May 21, will continue to July 9. The series promotes practical conversations about how Jamaicans can maintain or adjust their plans based on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tamique Hines, senior manager, software engineering, at MC Systems Ltd, who also participated in the discussion, advised that one of the main technologies that local companies must now take advantage of is e-commerce.

“COVID-19 has forced many of us to do business online, and companies that will suffer right now are those that don’t have this capability,” she cautioned.

Hines also noted that in this current climate, it is essential that more companies work to provide their customers with the ability to pay online for the goods and services being offered.

She pointed out other digital tools that have become even more relevant to the success of local businesses in this time are videoconferencing and collaboration tools, which will allow for better employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer interaction.

“They will better facilitate the sharing of information. Platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are among the tools available, and they not only offer videoconferencing capabilities, but also provide data sharing and collaboration features,” she said.

“In addition, they have various tiers in terms of cost and usage. Most start with a free tier, and there are paid packages for small, medium, and large enterprises,” Hines said.

Another step that local companies can make towards further digitisation involves cloud adaptation.

“When this pandemic started, there were many persons going home to work. To access their company’s network, they would require a virtual private network (VPN). Most VPNs are not designed to take on the full workforce connecting all at once. Therefore, having your infrastructure in the cloud gives you the ability to have access and work from wherever you are located,” she explained.

Hines noted that popular cloud-computing services that companies can utilise include Microsoft OneDrive and Amazon AWS.

WORK SEAMLESSLY

She added that the goal is to implement technologies that would allow individuals to work seamlessly from home.

“Even persons dealing with payroll could benefit from cloud adaptation and would not need to go in office to take care of this task. Furthermore, cloud adaptation ties in with the business-continuity plan of many companies,” she said.

“However, behind all of this, security is a big issue. Therefore, companies will also need to invest in technology tools that will protect their data, and those are also quite readily available,” she noted.

Clarke added that with more persons online, businesses can benefit from increased marketing and branding.

“The public is now more connected online than before, therefore, social-media managers and other brand stakeholders need to leverage opportunities to stand out during these sensitive times. This is also an opportunity which vloggers and bloggers can use to their benefit,” he said.

Frederick Pragnell, head of digital banking at JN Bank, noted that COVID-19 has also created a “new normal” for the banking sector, where institutions will become less dependent on the traditional forms of commerce.

“For example, think how reliant we have been in the past, and continue to be, on physical cash and cheques. I do believe that we are going to be less dependent on them in the future. And you can see that based on the way our current digital services are now being adopted by customers,” he said.

Pragnell noted that there is an uptick in the use of JN Bank’s online banking platform, JN LIVE, by customers. “People have been using the platform to do their day-to-day transactions such as paying bills, buying credit, transferring money to friends and family, and paying their mortgage. It’s in times like these that you really get to see the usefulness of these platforms and just how much they can do for you,” he said.

He noted that customers were also making use of other innovations, such as the bank’s SMART ATMs, which allows them to do several transactions without a card.

“Soon, persons will be able to pay their credit card bills via the automated machines,” he noted.