The Post Covid-19 World As I see It

Desperate times don’t always have to call for desperate measures; they call for us to look down through history and to see how our predecessors overcame them and when we do so, we know that they applied different strategies; ones they probably never thought they’d ever have to apply in their company’s lifetime. History shows us over and over again that stiff and rigid companies that stuck with their ways of doing things were swept by the wave of the crisis; only the flexible and resilient ones survived. Covid-19 is not different, it will definitely affect different industries differently but one thing cuts across all of them: they have to adapt to new ways of doing things. These new ways will become the new normal in the post Covid-19 world so there is no going back to normal; we are creating a new normal.

Just like time, “normal” is an illusion. There is no going back to normal; we are creating a new normal.

The 2003 SARS birthed today’s giants like Alibaba.com and JD.com. During the 2008/2009 global economic recession, Starbacks and American Express pivoted their businesses into digital operating models that not only made them emerge from the crisis but also made them increase tremendous value therefter. Amazon, PayPal, Google survived the 1999 dot com bubble and we need to understand the how. We have already seen that the idea of fully outsourcing from specific locations has been challenged: we need redundancies across different locations. In manufacturing, we are already seeing the emergence of ventilators and face masks in Kenya (and myself and team are soon launching a product of our own — locally manufactured). What this is telling us is that we don’t have to import every product into Africa, Africa can take this opportunity to finally realize its industrial revolution and stop the overdependence on foreign countries to supply us with equipment and machines.

We can broadly categorize post-crisis businesses based on whether they realize an increase or slump in their sales and margins. From historical data, and according to BCG study, only 14% of companies realized an increase both in sales and EBIT during the past economic crises with a whooping 44% showing a slump in both sales and EBIT. The numbers vary across industries as illustrated below.

How companies performed in the past world crises and pandemics

Covid-19 should be the catalyst for Africa to finally believe in itself, its abilities, its products, its workforce, its engineers and generally finally realize- to full potential- its own industrial revolution.

One thing is certain, the post Covid-19 world is going to be littered with people that do their things at the comfort of their homes. Zoom has become the facebook of remote meetings. We will see more people shopping online and delivery business championed by the likes of Sendy is just getting started. Different sectors will be affected differently but the unifying factor is that technology and ICT in general will be at the centre of this transformation as we strive to live and continue conducting business in the midst of and after the pandemic. These social transformations aren’t temporary and will remain with us after the end of the pandemic. After the end of HIV pandemic, how people viewed sex and their sexual partners changed forever. How people view water they drink changed after the Cholera pandemics and in both cases, we have never looked back; we won’t look back now.

It is a time where the health industry must really start to think about the concept of unified health data platform(s). The emergence of Electronic Health Records (EHR)as well as Longitudinal Patient Records (LPR) should nolonger be a subject of debate. With the EHR alongside the LPR systems in place, and with powerful AI systems like DeepMine, certain forms of prognosis and diagnosis of patients will nolonger require people to go to hospitals or clinics as these can easily be done within seconds and results delivered to them on their phones.

Simple model of an LPR

Education sector has already seen the rise of e-learning platforms. In deed, my friends at Zeraki, have seen extremely tremendous increase in their e-learning platform usage and this just tells us how much we can accomplish locally in Africa when it comes to championing change. It is a world in which I foresee ceertificates from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platforms like Coursera, Udemy and Edx, being more and more acceptable to the employers. The university of Nairobi has already announced online examinations and we have seen schools in Japan conducting online graduation ceremonies. It’s a totally different new normal we are creating for ourselves and most of its aspects are bound to stay.

Zeraki online learning mobile app

Covid-19 is what propels us to the realm of the Sci-Fi world. Do we really need maintenance engineers working daily at the factories to check if machines are functioning well? These people will be working from home while leaving such work to robots and sensors within factories to monitor the machines and share real time data to their data platform from where advanced AI can predict machine breakdowns and for the analysis of the engineers to make final decisions on the next course of action and only send a person to fix a breakdown when it occurs or is predicted to be soon occuring.

Not to forget, the fintech industry is definitely going to see a massive boost and we expect to see the banks putting more and more effort on their online banking platforms: the age of agency banking is coming to an end just like branch banking — in the next world, only merchants and online platforms will be the manner in which banks interact with their clients most of the time. I think even churches have the rethink their strategies.

The ultimate winners, what I will call “Vultures” from my concept of the vulture index (which we talked about a while back) are cloud service providers. Zoom for instance, is using Oracle Cloud and every other business that is moving online procures a cloud service of different type: be it in companies offering Infrastrcuture as a Service (IaaS) like AWS, GCP, MS Azure, Oracle Cloud, Alibaba Cloud and the rest, this really is a time for them to make a killing. Coming right after the IaaS are the PaaS and SaaS platforms and here lies lots of varieties like CRMs depending on your business need.

What we are going to see is the rise of IoT in its full grace and power and with the data comes the next vulture: big data and AI and this is where we, at Insense Data Technologies, lie. With things being done online, it means verification of documents has to move online as people submit scanned copies and no humans to physically verify all of them. Luckily, AI of image recognition and natural language processing allows us to be able to verify these documents with the same accuracy but better speed than the humans that used to do them in the previous world. More customers moving online means manual feedback collection is gone; more and more complaints will move online either to social networks or other platforms of the same kind. Natural Language Processing therefore becomes a hot chick in the next block to help us analyze this feedback and take the necessary actions. As fraud is expected to be on the rise so does the need for the more dynamic and robust AI-based as opposed to rule-based Fraud Detection systems; as the need for robotic machine monitoring comes to the rise so does the need for predictive maintenance models, as more customers buy online so does the need for models that can understand their preferences, smart recommender systems and personalized SKU displays on e-commerce stores. As health moves online through EHR and LPR so does the need to deploy diagnosis and prognosis AI models. As delivery becomes the next order of the day so does the need to have route optimization models for faster delivery. Generally, data remains the new empire and how we decide to use it determines if this will be an empire run by Emperor Augustus or Emperors Caligula and Nero combined.

The rise of digital data calls for security of this data. One of the biggest challenges with IoT has always been the security of the data and the promise of privacy of customer data. This is a topic that’s going to take more root than it has in the previous world. In the previous world, big giants like Google have been fined by EU’s watchdog but we need to see every country having their own version of the GDPR. Without security and proper privacy, our dream of a better Covid-19 world is nothing but a vanity.

With digital transformation and as things move online and companies collect more and more data, big data and AI become the new empire. How we decide to use it determines if this will be an empire run by Emperor Augustus or Emperors Caligula and Nero combined.

Ultimately, it is for your company to make the final decision; a decision of whether it wants to cross successfully into the post Covid-19 world or remain behind and there exists lots of companies locally to help with the transition. At Kuza Lab for instance, they are ramping up their efforts to help companies through this digital transformation journey by setting up for them the systems they need to smoothly make the transition. At Insense Data Technologies, they take you a step higher by helping you realize not only the security of your data but provide a unified streaming analytics and AI platform for better experience and decision support. I do know lots of other companies doing the same: Onesha, for instance, has been at the forefront of the gig economy in Kenya, one of the sectors that’s expected to rise tremendously post Covid-19 and as I already mentioned, I am more than thrilled by Zeraki’s efforts to make learning fun and easy through their mobile application. All these are Kenyan companies by young ambitious Kenyan techpreneurs — the Covid-19 world has to teach us to be self-reliant and to adopt local solutions to our local problems: the age of importing everything we need has to remain in Egypt as we cross River Jordan into our own Canaan.

The Covid-19 world has to teach us to be self-reliant and to adopt local solutions to our local problems: the age of importing everything we need has to remain in Egypt as we cross River Jordan into our own Canaan.

Founder, Techpreneur, Engineer and Data Scientist