We’ve all been part of the most widespread and at times destructive disruption to our lives, to our economy and our society – globally.
As a result of full or partial lockdown measures, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81 per cent of the world’s workforce, have been affected and that 1.25 billion workers (almost 38% of the global workforce) are employed in sectors that are now facing a severe decline in output and a high risk of workforce displacement. While we have not had anywhere near the rates of COVID-19 infections in Australia compared to many other parts of the world, we have still seen 594,300 people losing their jobs in April and a further 227,700 in May as restrictions to limit coronavirus shut thousands of businesses and affected many more.
In June, there was a small lift, with employers hiring an additional 210,800 people. The recovery overall will still take considerable time, but if there is one silver lining, COVID-19 has shown how resilient Australians are and how quickly we have been able to pivot and adopt new technologies and new ways of working and connecting. Our experience has demonstrated the importance of digital readiness, which allows business and life to continue as usual—as much as possible—during pandemics.
RingCentral has just published a report, COVID-19: Restarting Australia through Technology taking an in-depth look at the situation and presenting us with a really positive outlook on our resilience and the future. We’ve uncovered some Australian-specific statistics and examples to show how we are going to emerge from the pandemic digital-ready and more resilient.
According to Ray Morgan research, over 4.3 million people (32% of working Australians) have been working from home since lockdown and social distancing has been implemented, relying more on virtual conferencing and collaboration tools to stay connected.
nbn recorded its highest ever peak in data demand in the middle of that lockdown period. For the week from Monday, 27 April to Sunday, 3 May, peak download throughput during the busy evening period increased by 26% to 13.9Tbps, compared to the baseline period in the last week of February 2020. Importantly, we have kept things running throughout.
Educational institutions from kindergarten through to post-graduate have had to pivot to 100% online teaching and learning – UTS Insearch a case in point. Once life returns to normal, the expectation is that there will be a permanent and more pervasive use of online teaching and learning in Australia. For example, the NSW Government has already announced that it will be delivering online vocational education and training (VET) in every government high school by 2022.
We have had to move quickly to adopt telemedicine. The Australian Government introduced a temporary scheme from March to September 2020, allowing health professionals to treat patients virtually or over the phone. This has been embraced enthusiastically by Australians. It turns out that we have had the largest uptake globally in new users of telemedicine services during the COVID-19 pandemic. ABC News reports that doctors in rural and regional Australia are urging the Government to continue the telehealth scheme, saying it will help to close Australia’s health gap.
“I would hope the success of this implementation, over COVID-19, is enough to stimulate further reforms in this area, to allow telemedicine to be extended, supported and the breadth of it to be used in general practice for years to come,“ said CSIRO health and biosecurity director Dr Rob Grenfell in the ABC article.
Digital transformation strategies and cloud adoption in business generally have accelerated during the pandemic. “The lockdown and work from home period has had a massive impact on the amount of cloud services being used … this is true for almost all business applications, but the biggest impact is the uptake of collaboration tools and video conferencing, which are all built on cloud platforms,” said Telsyte’s managing director Foad Fadaghi in the Australian Financial Review in June. AccessEAP is one of those organisations, fast-tracking its RingCentral deployment to ensure the continuity of its ongoing operations and the ability to support customers and their employees.
The effect of the transition from in-office to work from home was remarkable. Our report found that by the end of March, RingCentral app downloads were up 300% month-on-month (MoM), meetings usage was up 100%, and team messaging usage was up 70% MoM. We expect that using video optimisation and network traffic management tools (SD-WAN), in line with existing cloud apps will allow businesses to maintain service availability for all forms of internet usage.
That sort of capability enabled Australian software company TechnologyOne to send 50% of its workforce home even before the enforced lockdown, and maintain business as usual operations. In its first full month of lockdown, UTS Insearch clocked up around 3.5 million minutes using RingCentral Meetings, with a cumulative figure of 110,000 participants from 41 countries joining and collaborating in 4,844 meetings.
At a time when we are seeing 5G mobile technology being rolled out Australia-wide, our national broadband network proving its capabilities to manage unprecedented peak loads, and a new generation of workers who have now experienced and embraced remote working, we are more ready than ever to take advantage of the accelerated digital transformation that has been taking place in response to COVID-19.
We need to approach the future with a positive mindset: a new landscape means new opportunities, and it’s time for us to make the most of what’s available to us.
Download the complete report on Restarting the Australia through technology.
Originally published 14 Aug, 2020, updated 28 Aug, 2020