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3 reasons the digital infrastructure sector may emerge stronger post-pandemic


November 6, 2022

telecom tower

The COVID-19 pandemic has had most of the world in its grip for the majority of the last two years, having grown from a highly localized contagion into one of the most impactful events of the 21st century. Its rapid spread and the death and destruction it has left in its wake have forced many of us to remain in the relative safety of our homes, resulting in many changes to how we engage in everyday activities. Because we have been forced to keep our distance from one another, we have become more reliant than ever on the power of the internet and mobile connectivity for basic activities such as reporting to work, attending classes, purchasing groceries, and spending time with our friends and family.

While the arrival of the vaccines has allowed us to return to a semblance of normalcy, this may actually be an opportunity for us to rethink how many facets of daily life can be remade and improved upon, in an attempt to build back better. Much of what our lives will look like after COVID-19 will be built precisely on the technology that saw us through the pandemic, leading many experts to believe that the infrastructure that supports all that tech will be more robust than ever. Here is a closer look at this viewpoint. 

Greater integration of tech in daily life

A direct result of the pandemic has been the accelerated adoption of information technology solutions into our daily lives. Prior to the coronavirus, common usage of the internet included personal and business emails, leisure browsing, video streaming, and some occasional shopping. After the arrival of COVID-19, niche video conferencing products and voice over Internet protocol services, once used almost exclusively by business process outsourcing outfits in the Philippines, became more widely integrated into businesses and educational institutions. Some popular teleconferencing platforms reported increases in user base by as much as 30 times during the course of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, e-commerce activity picked up during the pandemic as shoppers sought safe, socially distanced alternatives to visiting public markets, malls, and groceries. As a result, in the Philippines alone, a definitive uptick in e-commerce purchases has been observed both during community quarantine, and even after these measures had been eased, as compared to pre-pandemic. 

What this all boils down to is a growing level of comfort with digital technology within the country. As Filipinos become more facile with the internet, it is not unreasonable to expect that they will begin to demand greater access no matter where they are. This is why Aboitiz InfraCapital has decided to invest in the country’s digital infrastructure by helping telcos deploy small cell sites and co-establishing more common cell towers throughout the country. 

Tech for spurring economic activity

One of the unfortunate consequences of the pandemic has been its effect on the economy. In the Philippines alone, the gross domestic product (GDP) saw a contraction of 9.6% year over year according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the largest decline in GDP ever recorded in the more than 60 years the metric has been in use by the country. Some of this contraction has been attributed to the conditions that give the Philippine economy its structure, including its reliance on services and dependence on remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers. Both of these saw a sharp decline with the arrival of COVID-19. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

The economic slowdown has, in part, been attributed to the adjustment period that businesses needed to overcome in order to pivot their operations to a setup that adheres to established public health protocols. After more than a year of keeping employees from reporting to work in person, many companies have shifted to a split-time model, where employees occasionally go to the office for in-person meetings while performing most of their tasks and responsibilities from home, with the use of technology. Other companies have stuck with the work-from-home setup, further streamlining their distanced operations with a more robust tech stack, to improve employee productivity and efficiency. In both cases, a corresponding uptick in economic activity overall, built for the most part on operating models that assume a strong IT infrastructure.

COVID-19 is probably endemic now

More and more, the reality we seem to be confronted with is that the coronavirus will be here to stay. Just like the flu, its rapid transmissibility and highly adaptive nature make it difficult to eradicate completely, meaning that it will likely be endemic moving forward. However, this does not mean that we are powerless against it. An inoculation plan based on the latest breakthroughs will do much to safeguard the next generation of Filipinos, and the protocols and best practices learned during the various community quarantine periods will serve us well in the years to come. Specifically, relying even more on access to connectivity will do much to prevent exposure to the virus while also ensuring we are able to still live comfortable, productive lives.

While the spread of the coronavirus has not been a pleasant experience, its presence has allowed us to reconsider how resources are directed and make changes to this if needed. If we so desire, this could truly be an opportunity to build back better.

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