As we commence 2021, the year that is touted to bring in recovery, resurgence, vaccinations and market corrections. It is a year, which has quite a low bar to jump thanks to its 2020 sibling. However, 2020 saw one silver lining in the tech space, a phenomenon coined by The Economist magazine as ‘Tech-celeration’ (acceleration of tech). According to a recent report by McKinsey Consulting, “Recent data shows that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.”
Addressing the recently concluded Singapore Fintech Festival, CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella noted that the company had done 5 years’ worth of business in 5 months of 2020. At the same conference, CEO of Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, stated that approximately 40 million people (especially from South Asia) connected online for the 1st time in 2020. Further, 1/3rd of these people went onto use a Google service for the 1st time.
Therefore, the trend is unmistakable, digital adoption has shown a significant appreciation in 2020. Here in Sri Lanka the pandemic and the lockdowns have also accelerated existing technological adoption. Shopping steadily moved online; digital payments were widely adopted; online learning, a heresy previously, is slowly becoming more prevalent.
The more people were working from home, the more digitization was propelled into the future. The transition has also energized transformation in fields such as Health, Government Services, which were historically resistant to change, couple that with the de-stigmatization of remote working and a Digital Sri Lanka looks set to grow in 2021.
Which gives rise to the big question for 2021: How many things will snapback? Globally indications are ripe that the world isn’t going to return to its pre-pandemic state. Many brick and mortar stores have either closed or declared bankruptcy. Experts are calling it, The Retail Apocalypse, 2020 was the final nail in the coffin after the eCommerce onslaught. Airlines, hotels, and other travel-related business have shut down with marginal indications that tourism will reach pre-pandemic levels only by 2023.
That being said not all 2020 behaviour changes will persist. Student, as well as teachers, are keen to return to schools and classrooms. Despite its convenience workers will miss the camaraderie of the office and would prefer a hybrid work arrangement than complete work from home. When schools and offices snap back to pre-pandemic levels, it’s likely that online shopping and digital payments will see a slowdown (we witnessed some of that between 1st and 2nd Wave).
Will everything that was done in 2020 be undone in 2021? Chances are unlikely, but 2021 will show us what changes will stick and what will wane. That in itself offers a silver lining, these changes open up new arenas for innovation and disruption. Already there are indications that companies will devise fresh tools and services to enhance collaboration and learning. A new wave of contactless services from payments to tourism is set to rise and providing new online social interactions and experiences. Potentially, propelling a Sri Lankan company to unicorn status. One thing is clear, a new wave of change is upon us in 2021, may the fittest survive and thrive.