The vital role that technology played during the crisis


Eight out of ten people across the region said technology helped them get through the virus—and they used the internet for a wide range of reasons. In most of the sectors we looked at, new users made up more than 30% of total, whereas education, groceries and loans saw the biggest jumps. We are learning new ways of fighting and managing such unexpected diseases that can potentially kill millions of people. It is absolutely true that technology cannot prevent the onset of the pandemics; however, it can help prevent the spread, educate, warn, and empower those on the ground to be aware of the situation, and noticeably lessen the impact.


Today, with converging technologies like mobile, cloud, analytics, robotics, AI/ML, 4G/5G, and high-speed internet, it has become possible to test several innovative approaches to pandemic response. The pandemic also saw demand for and access to digital services to continue to expand beyond Southeast Asia’s biggest cities. In Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, more than half the people were new to digital services than who live in non-metropolitan areas. This is encouraging progress, given that the urban-rural digital divide is one of the main challenges a report has highlighted over recent years. The biggest disruption we have seen is, the changing shape of the regional internet economy, Not surprisingly, e-commerce is growing faster than we could have imagined before the crisis: from 38 billion dollars in value last year to 62 billion dollars this year, and expected to reach 172 billion dollars by 2025.


Digital financial services are becoming more important. The average proportion of cash transactions has declined from 48% of the total pre-COVID to 37% post-COVID. A report shows the annual value of total digital payment transactions across Southeast Asia will almost double to 1.2 trillion dollars by 2025.


Indeed, technology has advanced and will continue to advance exponentially, but the human institutions and societies need to accelerate in adapting to it and continue investing in building the technology systems for the preparedness. After the COVID-19 outbreak, it is evident that, from AI to robotics, the technology innovations are helping to manage the epidemic and better equip to fight future public health emergencies in a timely, systematic, and calm manner. COVID-19 has completely transitioned how content is being generated, distributed, and streamed. Online streaming of live shows and concerts has gained traction across the world. Several film production companies have also been releasing their movies via Over The Top (OTT) platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Netflix, Zee5 etc. OTT caters to varied interests of people across the globe with the perennial additions of diverse content.


The lockdown has helped people in realizing the ease of viewing content on OTT platforms; it has changed how people are consuming content on a day-to-day basis. Secondly, the online grocery market witnessed tremendous growth during the pandemic due to the soaring demand amongst consumers. All the biggies are fighting on the streets to gain market share, by offering a handful of discounts.


The most important transformation we have seen is technology helps in getting the realtime information on the number of fatalities, diagnosis and treatment options, vaccines, medicines, government policies, etc., that creates more panic and anxiety among the population. In order to reduce false information, companies like Google, Facebook, and YouTube are working tirelessly to guide people to the right, verifiable information such as that published by WHO or local authorities and government.