ZIMBABWEAN businesses should accelerate the adoption of technology so as to improve efficiency and meet customer needs in post Covid-19 period, industry leaders have said.
This comes as the deadly pandemic has forced companies across the world to rationalise operations by allowing their employees to work remotely as a way of curbing the coronavirus.
However, Zimbabwean companies that were facing a myriad of challenges before the disease hit the country in March have struggled to fully embrace technology in their operations.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Henry Ruzvidzo said the world as we know it has been affected by Covid-19 and post this period, there is a lot of attention being paid to technologies.
“Hopefully, because of the exposure we have had to technology, Zimbabwe is now ready to embrace technology because in the future everything will be connected and machines and markets will be able to communicate with each other.”
Ruzvidzo, who was addressing the sixth edition of the Online Economic Development Outlook-New Normal symposium, said it was critical for policy makers to come up with mechanisms that do not stifle innovation and technology adoption.
This view was further reinforced by Dandemutande chief executive Never Ncube who noted that the new normal entails people being able to work from anywhere and products being marketed and sold online.
“Covid-19 has presented various opportunities for companies to market their products to global markets, thus capturing customers from anywhere in the world. In that case, it is imperative for local companies to identify and partner with innovators to increase their market share,” he said.
Global Renaissance Investment chief executive, Ngoni Dzirutwe who was hosting the online event said perhaps the deadly pandemic was the push Zimbabwe needed to catch up with the rest of the world in fully embracing technology.
“Events on the ground show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of months.
“Banks have transitioned to remote sales and service teams and launched digital outreach to customers to make flexible payment arrangements for loans while supermarkets and restaurants have shifted to online ordering and delivery as their primary business,” he said, adding that schools have pivoted to online learning and digital classrooms.
“Coming out of the crisis, our economy could look fundamentally different: much more agile, secure, connected and digitally-enabled. And it is those companies that stay the course and keep up the pace with this transformation that are likely to be the winners; those that fall back to the old ways are likely to lose market appeal,” Dzirutwe added.
Loice Ngulube, an ICT executive with POSB, however said some local innovations have suffered stillbirth due to local and international bureaucracy.
“Our regulations can be problematic. You come up with an innovation and it is said not to meet international standards and eventually will just lie idle. You send your product for verification and in the process, someone is waiting to see a loophole and pounce on you before you finish rectifying the problem with your product.
“This is problematic and we do not have adequate security when it comes to cybercrime, and we need to be cautious as this can happen to anyone, big or small,” she said.
While it is important to meet international best practices and standards, the bureaucratic process is considered prohibitive.
For example, innovations in the health sector need to be signed off by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a process that can result in inordinate delays.