Coronavirus and the Breakdown of the Digital Workplace

As the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe, its impact has been felt in every industry and workspaces especially among airlines, which have had to contend with the gross reduction in global travel. However, as digitalisation continues to take hold within every industry around the world, the pandemic’s impact on tech industries is one which will affect most businesses and may eventually change the entire workplace system.

In Nigeria, one of the ways the pandemic is affecting the tech industry is in the importation of computer software, hardware and other accessories which are sourced from China, US, Italy, Germany – some of the countries most hit by the virus. Already, in these countries, there is a a breakdown in production and manufacturing systems due to the call for self-isolation and social-distancing as means of stopping the spread of the virus.

Few weeks into the outbreak of the pandemic, some of the world’s major tech companies announced the temporary shutdown of their corporate offices, manufacturing actories, and retail stores across China where the virus originated from. These companies include Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Tesla, and Google. As many products are manufactured in China (or use parts from Chinese vendors), customers have been warned to expect shortages for various smartphones, VR headsets, electronics, and other tech accessories. For example, the Foxconn and Pegatron closures in China are expected to potentially delay iPhones and AirPods production as factory workers are unable to resume work. Businesses like Mastercard, Microsoft and Apple say they may pare planned investments and even start laying off workers. Microsoft said recently that the virus had hampered production of its laptop and tablet computers.

Some other companies are expecting additional impact on hardware production due to the Coronavirus. Due to factory closures, American electric car maker Tesla is also citing the coronavirus for postponed Model 3 deliveries. According to the South China Morning Post, other brands that expect to see production delays include Oppo, Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Huawei. Similarly, products across the tech sector that were expected to ship in earlyFebruary were delayed due to the virus. These include the Nintendo Switch console, games, and accessories, including the much-adored Animal Crossing edition, Ring Fit Adventure, and The Outer Worlds.

The Coronavirus is also pushing more human activities online, as phone conversations or email messaging are more preferred than large gatherings nowadays. It is also prompting schools and businesses to consider shifts to online-only classes and work.

There is an impact of the pandemic that is novel in Nigeria: As government and health professionals race to contain the virus, they are simultaneously battling the explosion of half-truths and outright falsehoods online. Nowhere is the threat direr than on WhatsApp. Since the first case of the virus was reported in Nigeria, there have been flood of misinformation on WhatsApp about the number of people affected, the way the illness is transmitted and the availability of treatments. The messages have instilled fear, troubled businesses and created public health headaches for the government.