Local companies across sectors need to invest more in digital platforms to catch up with global standards and buoy the fourth industrial revolution, experts have said.
Apart from being an enabler in economic development, digital platforms have become crucial during the Covid-19 period where economies across the globe have resorted to lockdowns as a means to limit the spread of the pandemic.
BancABC chief executive officer Dr Lance Mambondiani, said Covid-19 changed the way businesses interact with their customers from financial services, retailers, distribution, manufacturing, education, health and other sectors of the economy.
This called for business models that are in line with the new environment in order to remain relevant.
As such, information and communication technology (ICTs) becomes crucial in delivery of services.
“As businesses, we need to build platforms that sustain and allow us to deliver services efficiently to customers. The world is becoming more digital.
“If you are a bank, build a platform that allows you to deliver money and all the financial services, a supermarket must build a platform that makes it easy to sell products while in education they must also have infrastructure to make learning accessible.
“If we don’t do that, we will be obliterated,” he said during the fifth online economic development outlook — New Normal Indaba.
The Indaba, hosted by Global Renaissance Investments (GRI) ran under the theme “Digital and smartech for economic boom — fourth industrial revolution”.
For financial services firms in Zimbabwe, digital platforms have taken over as the market adopt e-commerce, opposed to visiting the physical branch for services that can be done online.
Plastic money usage has also increased for transactions such as purchases and bill payments, which have partly been necessitated by cash shortages as well as the outbreak of Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Dr Mambondiani highlighted the need for reliable infrastructure to support internet connectivity in this “new normal” where board meetings, enquiries, orders and purchases are now done virtually.
In Zimbabwe, for the first time in its history, listed firms are holding their annual general meetings online.
“With this phenomena, we need to ensure we have adequate connectivity to support this,” he added.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries CZI president Henry Ruzvidzo, concurred that under the new normal, businesses across sectors were largely turning to digital platforms for services, which called for more investment towards ICTs and other technologies that enhance productivity at a time companies are implementing lockdown and social distancing requirements.
POSB Bank ICT executive Loice Ngulube, said while the economy is pushing the fourth industrial revolution agenda, Covid-19 had also presented an opportunity to assess the country’s preparedness to navigate through digitalisation as well as the ability to close the gap.
She said businesses could tap into the wealth of talent in local institutions where students have shown their prowess at regional and international platforms with their innovations.
These, she said, can be engaged to
come up with ICT solutions that boost agriculture, enhance manufacturing and value addition.
“We are all seized with recovering the economy and we can use ICT to develop the economy and play catch up with the world.
“Our universities have talented students, if we involve them — can come up with innovative ideas that sustain the industrialisation agenda. We can close the skills gap too,” she said.
Panelists at the Indaba agreed that to achieve the industrial revolution leveraging on ICT and digitalisation, an enabling environment is required to enhance investment in the sector.
Regulator — Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) acknowledged the infrastructure gap that exist in the country and said efforts were being made to redress the challenge. – Sunday Mail