‘We’re in the same storm, but not in the same boat’ has become a familiar saying during COVID-19 and aptly explains the varying degrees of impact the pandemic has caused different industries during the last few months.
Lockdown has created a surge in an already rising demand for digital connectivity, meaning telecoms and tech have weathered the storm better than many sectors so far but it’s by no means been smooth sailing. At SSE Enterprise Telecoms, orders and projects slowed while businesses were in crisis talks, and then acclimatising and shaping a ‘new normal’. In fact, no physical network digs or builds have taken place, unless for Critical National Infrastructure, and we’re only just starting to see this ease.
Recent market research by Tech Target found that, “Gartner is forecasting an 8% decline in global IT spending in 2020” – a figure that would be catastrophic in any other year. But considering that some economies are predicting drops in GDP of over 30% in Q2, in relative terms, the Technology sector is likely to come out of the crisis largely unscathed.
We’ve spent a lot of this time talking to customers about the impact COVID-19 has had on the way they do business. Five sectors have emerged where the impact has been most dramatic, and where digital connectivity has already started to play a significant role in recovery as the storm eases:
1. Public sector pace of change is unprecedented
Local and regional authorities know the importance digital infrastructure will play in economic recovery, post-COVID, in making public services run more efficiently and in providing faster connectivity to homes and businesses. We’ve experienced this recently in our full-fibre project award from Aberdeenshire Council which will bring high-speed connectivity benefits to schools, hospitals and local businesses across the region.
2. Digital transformation comes to life in Healthcare
NHS Digital has signed a deal with Microsoft for digital tools and there’s been an exponential rise in demand for NHS online services during the crisis as well as doctors adapting to hold virtual consultations. We’ve been working with long-term partner NYnet to deploy critical infrastructure to support blue light services treating COVID-19 patients. Ethernet connectivity was rapidly deployed in an ‘Extended Access Hub’ in North Shields, where NHS medical professionals can care for non-critical COVID-19 patients, reducing the delivery process that would normally take months to just eight working days.
3. Virtual education moves from concept to practice
Digital initiatives are on fast-forward for the Education sector, with virtual learning being rolled out across all age groups at speed. Universities such as the University of Cambridge have already announced their whole next academic year will be carried out online, and the ‘digital campus’ or ‘digital classroom’ is likely to become the new norm for students.
4. New era in store for Retail
The traditional high street has been in decline for some time, with lockdown heightening the demand for online shopping. Old business models will struggle to work in this sector, even as lockdown eases and shops reopen, and retailers will need to make greater investments in online customer experience and click and collect services in order to stay relevant.
5. Long road ahead for Transport
As most travel was deemed non-essential during lockdown, the Transport sector has been hard hit this year. Aviation has been most affected, with most flights grounded and services unlikely to resume until autumn at the earliest. Check-in automation will be significant in kickstarting this sector, as will restarting major rail and road infrastructure projects (and the crucial connectivity projects that will need to run alongside) to improve passenger experience and get people actively travelling again.
Across all sectors we’ve seen a drastic increase in working from home, video-calling, moving to the Cloud and investing in collaboration software. These increases in demand have also brought about an increase in the interest of gigabit-capable connectivity services and high-capacity network solutions to keep people seamlessly connected and businesses running smoothly throughout the UK.
As we enter the calm after the storm, digital transformation and investing in digital infrastructure will need to be top of the agenda for businesses looking to rebuild with more storm-proof foundations for the future.