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Tech proves to be ‘heart’ of companies amid COVID-19

Read time 5min 10sec
Chintan Patel, chief technology officer at Cisco.
Chintan Patel, chief technology officer at Cisco.

Every company has become a technology company in some way, shape or form because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This is the sentiment expressed by Chintan Patel, chief technology officer at Cisco, during a virtual press and analyst conference at Cisco Live yesterday.

The networking giant hosted the annual technology event online as COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 infections have surpassed eight million worldwide, with the death toll at 451 808 and 4.4 million recoveries, at the time of publication. Locally, the numbers continue to surge, with cases at 80 412, the national death toll at 1 674 and 44 331 people having recovered, as of this morning.

Unpacking findings based on engagement with CIOs, customers and partners in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia on the focus areas and top technology impacts their companies are navigating, Patel says the pandemic has shown technology and IT is at the heart of every company.

“The role of IT has evolved; if it wasn’t a board-level discussion before, it absolutely is now,” he says. “For us it’s very much around helping our customers run their companies even better going forward as we come out of the pandemic, go faster and allow the digital that they need for whatever comes next.”

The Internet prevails

While it was expected that the role of the Internet would be elevated amid the pandemic, the level at which it has done so is unprecedented.

Patel says the change that has taken place in the last three months gives a glimpse into what the future of the Internet will look like.

For example, Cisco saw over 500 million meeting participants on its video-conferencing enterprise solution WebEx, generating about 25 billion meeting minutes, he reveals.

“Some of the changes that we've all faced everyday have been incredible. Businesses that once had to map digital strategies in one to three years have had to scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks. And we've seen unprecedented effort by IT teams around the world in helping their organisations, whether small, mid-size, large, public or private.”

He adds that following the stay-at-home mandates implemented by governments across the globe, traffic at major public Internet peering points and exchanges increased hugely.

Despite questions in the early days about whether the Internet would be able to cope, he says it certainly did. “We've seen that our service providers have built extra capacity and resilience into networks and we've worked very closely with them.

“These increases that we saw in Asia Pacific first, then on to Europe as the pandemic shifted its focus, and then into the Americas, showed the Internet was really the backbone. It really was a platform that allowed communities and businesses to stay connected, to stay online, to stay educated and to stay connected with friends and family.

“Traffic levels that were predicted in many countries to be two to three years away happened immediately.”

According to Patel, the prominent messaging in all of this is that technology has been one of the leading lights in everything that's been happening.

Top 10 tech impacts

Cisco foresees the next level of technology taking shape, identifying the 10 areas where tech is having an impact and will continue to do so as a result of COVID-19.

The tech impacts have been framed into three areas: new experience, new norms and new priorities.

Patel explains the new experience focus area looks at what is created for both consumers and employees; the second area identifies the ‘new norms’ that are going to emerge as a consequence of the pandemic; and the new priorities look into where companies and organisations are going to put resources and investments going forward.

Cisco lists the three new experience areas as online becoming the new frontline, more contactless interfaces and interactions, and the rise of remote care.

Patel explains: “This notion of the online becoming the new frontline is that from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep and everything in between, our lives are being dictated, and in many ways augmented, by the digital experience we get on our mobile devices, on our smart TVs, our laptops, etc.

“There was a big trend from offline to online happening anyway but COVID-19 has accelerated that for many organisations.

“We're also seeing more contactless interfaces; we expect to see fewer touchscreens, more voice and machine interfaces going forward and contactless payment options. This has already started; we're going to start to see more of it as we go forward.

“We've also seen the rise of remote care, and the figures of telemedicine and virtual health are striking before the virus.Remote care will extend not only to healthcare but many aspects of our lives.”

Under new norms of tech, Cisco foresees more digital events, the future of work will be distributed and learning will continue to become e-learning.

In regards to the new priorities pillar, there will be strengthened digital infrastructure, experiments will move to strategic choices, increased reliance on automation or robots, and cyber security will be at the forefront.

“We've seen the power of data in this pandemic, and how we deliver that and safeguard individual privacy to prevent abuse of data is going to be a big part of everything that goes forward.

“An organisation's purpose is going to be absolutely critical, and this has become probably more prominent in this pandemic than ever before.”

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