Life After Covid-19
What Is Life Going to Be Like After Corona?
On March 10, Jamaica had its first case of Covid-19, the novel (new) corona-virus. The virus has led to massive changes in the way we do things; the way we work, the way we interact with people in public, how we transact business and how we purchase goods and services in an era of social distancing. I think this tweet summed it up perfectly:
Out With the Old
Jamaica has many businesses that primarily operate brick-and-mortar locations and has been slow to adopt to technologies that would make the delivery of their products and services easier. Ten years ago, there were hardly any food or grocery delivery services, banks were just launching their online banking platforms, online learning was not something that any Jamaican company was offering in a meaningful way and you had to go to the doctor physically for your check-ups. Now, there are a handful of food delivery companies, many transactions can be done electronically through online payment gateways (ACH an RTGS), there are a few eLearning sites available for mostly school-aged children and there are a few e-medicine platforms available to see a doctor. There has been an improvement, but we have a long way to go to adopt to the latest technologies.
On a trip to Trelawny one weekend (before Covid-19 was even born) my other half and I were driving through and looking at the large swaths of land and we dreamed of that location as the next Silicon Valley situated in the heart of an area that’s close to hotels and close enough to the airport. Hotel workers could spend the nights as information technology interns and Jamaica’s rise to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) would be underway. Shortly after that the Prime Minister announced that there would be special STEM schools established that would not fall under the Ministry of Education as these teachers would have performance-based pay. I loved this idea and support it 100%. Jamaica has fallen behind in the development of STEM skills and Covid-19 has brought that reality to the fore.
I applaud people like Larren Peart, the CEO of BlueDot Insights, and many others who I saw involved in an initiative to find 3D printers to be able to print masks for hospital workers to use as part of the Personal Protective Equipment. The demand for 3D machines in Jamaica has overnight increased dramatically.
Changing of the Guard
What has Coronavirus lead to?
- An increased number of persons working from home
- Decline in economic activity
- A likely increase in unemployment
- A huge decline in the stock market
- Significant decline in business patronage, esp. brick-and-mortar locations particularly from restrictions on the number of persons allowed in a building at a time (20 at first then later reduced to 10)
- A surge in the use of online platforms for:
- Ordering goods and services both locally and overseas
- Banking and Financial Institutions including payment of bills
- Finding out information about the virus or to get news updates via webinars, teleconferences, webchats etc
- Conducting meetings
- Connecting with friends and family
Many of us have been forced into using technologies that we never had a need to use before. I’m currently working with a start-up that is involved in using technology to deliver a service and you would be surprised that setting up an email address is out of reach for a number of persons BUT in crisis comes opportunity.
In this time of uncertainty, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but here is some relief – it will end. It may not be this week, or this month, or this year but it will end. So what do I think is on the other side of this proverbial rainbow?
Life After COVID-19
1. Enhanced use of technologies – Many individuals and employers will hopefully realise that this temporary situation has birthed a new way of doing things. They would have assessed if all their employees really need to be in office and how their employees performed during social distancing. Persons would have paid their bills online with no issue, taken online courses and had several effective meetings remotely. There will be a new way of doing business going forward.
Companies will also emerge that don’t even exist right now and in a few years you will not know how to live without those companies. An example emerging from the 2008 and 2009 mortgage crisis in the US is the reversal of the proportion of mortgages originated by banks versus by online lenders, which began to trend in opposite directions in around 2008. Online lenders now exceed banks in the value of mortgage origination, as seen in the graph below.
Source: FDIC Quarterly – https://www.fdic.gov/bank/analytical/quarterly/2019-vol13-4/fdic-v13n4-3q2019-article3.pdf
Digital companies, or companies that fill an unmet need arising from social distancing will be born or will have significant growth.
2. Stock Market Growth – The market will bounce back. By how much and by when is anybody’s guess, but it will. After this passes, I hope that there is a clearer understanding when your financial advisor (hopefully) tells you before a purchase that stocks are risky, that Covid-19 gave a better appreciation for what that can mean. Hopefully by the end of the year Jamaica will be on its way to being the best performing stock market again.
3. Increase in income diversification – Given the fact that many industries are directly impacted by the massive reduction in the exchange of good and services, what can you do to survive if it happened again? Would you be able to weather the storm if you were to suddenly lose your primary source of income after this (if you didn’t before)? Think about different income streams and explore opportunities that arise to diversify your income.
4. Increased debt – Some persons may have had to take loans to help them get through this period. If you had to take out a loan, remember it is important to honor your obligations so that your credit score is not negatively affected. If you cannot make the payments, communicate with your lender and try to make arrangements for a deferral or restructuring. Financial institutions have led the way to be very accommodating during this time. Also remember my tips on using a credit card responsibly.
5. Continuity Planning – Do a will, make plans for eventualities with your family or make a business continuity plan. Hopefully Covid-19 has shown us that we need to have a plan in case something serious happens. The plan will include information for key stakeholders and staff members, what will happen if certain situations arise (like a pandemic), how you will recover and how assets will be handled.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution involves the use of “artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.”1 Jamaica, like the rest of the world, is entering the 4th Industrial revolution and our brilliant minds should put us ahead in the technological revolution, if the right resources are dedicated to the cause. The careers that we were told about growing up included doctors, lawyers, nurses, or teachers. While those are all notable professions, the need to develop the technological capacity of the country is great. There will be professions in high-demand in the future that do not exist now and they will most likely be based in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Corona-virus has shown us that we need to get up to speed and quickly.