It was like they hadn’t seen each other in ages. Jokes were being told, remarks about appearances, laughter. Overall the mood was good, if not to say jolly. It could have been one of the usual company get-togethers at the office, but instead it was the first time the 35 employees all met online together after the lockdown.

This was their first quarterly internal meeting via Google Meet, the platform they now use for video conferencing. In the three weeks since the lockdown, beards had grown and haircuts were way overdue. But it was fun seeing finally seeing everyone again.Stories like these are now common all around the world. And for us at Ictual, being an IT company based on Curacao, the switch from working at the office to working from home has been fairly easy. Continuing to serve our customers remotely, almost in a “business as usual” fashion, has not been a huge challenge. Being digital has been in our blood for many years. 

But for many companies here on our islands it’s been a different tale. For some sectors, like tourism, that rely heavily on human interaction and physical experiences there was no escaping the effects of the COVID lockdown, sadly so, with all the devastating socio-economic effects we are experiencing as islands.

But there is also a category of companies that are now scrambling to go digital. In order to escape the negative effects and survive, they are now forced to work from home, go paperless, and move their systems to the cloud. Others are quickly trying to bring their companies online, ranging from setting up new websites including e-forms, to online shopping experiences and delivery apps. 

The signals that digitalization is of the utmost importance in today’s economy have been around for a while. We are all accustomed to the ease of using our mobile phone to achieve the things we set out to do. We are adjusting to a standard of increasingly easy access to almost anything instantly. The digital transformation has had an impact on all aspects of our daily lives, from how we socially engage (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tinder), to what we eat (delivery!), what we buy (Amazon), how we engage with organizations (online banking), how we travel (Uber, Airbnb, and how we spend our free time (Netflix, Spotify). The top 5 most valuable companies in the world nowadays are all digital first companies. Not anymore the industrial or energy giants from a few decades ago. 

Somehow however, many organizations in our region were still clinging to old fashioned brick and mortar shopping concepts, paper-based processes, “take a number and stand in line” type of customer service, and 9 to 5 opening hours. Governments have also been slow in offering online services to their citizens and our mobile or online payment possibilities are still extremely limited. This has impacted negatively our finances, our cost of doing business, our investor attractiveness, our productivity and above all our economic growth for many years.

Not anymore. Covid is forcing many organizations to accelerate their digital transformation. Creativity is summoned all around to come up with digital solutions in each and every sector: in our educational institutions, in healthcare organizations, in businesses, in (non) governmental organizations, in transportation, in our legal and policing systems.

This is driving our local software companies into overtime, commercially but also because of donating their time to quickly developing highly needed solutions for NGO’s, charities and other crisis teams.

If anything, the fast tracking of this digital journey is one of the few positive outcomes of the COVID crisis.

Let’s also not forget that the IT industry is one of the few sectors that can scale extremely well without needing huge amounts of (imported) natural resources or human capital. If we were to focus on growing our local digital capabilities, facilitate and incentivize our IT companies to carve out their niche in the regional and international arena by exporting digital solutions, it could become a welcome addition to our economy and a much needed foreign currency generating sector on it’s own.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Let’s unite, focus and make sure we come out of this crisis stronger and better prepared for our undoubtedly digital future.

Ictual offers high-quality services and solutions in the areas of Information and Communication Technology. With experienced, pragmatic IT professionals Ictual offers proven and practical solutions based on state of the art technologies throughout the Caribbean region and the Netherlands.