The long-term positive impact that COVID-19 could have on Alberta

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The long-term positive impact that COVID-19 could have on Alberta

While Alberta slowly begins re-opening its businesses, the effects of the current pandemic will likely continue to be felt for months, if not years. 

In our last post, we looked at many of the businesses that were adapting to the times to keep their business going, or support the community during the COVID-19 crisis.

In this post, we’ll look at the longer-term opportunities that could emerge from these “temporary” adaptations.

Photo by manny PANTOJA on Unsplash

Working from home

While many organizations, particularly in the technology sectors, had already established work-from-home capabilities, I know of several who had, until now, refused to allow staff to work anywhere but in the office. Whether it was because of cybersecurity concerns, or the lack of portable computers, or just the notion that staff can’t be productive when out of sight of their boss — many companies had hard rules against it.

Now, with these companies forced to work remotely, many leaders are finding that staff are just as productive at home, and some are even more productive.

In one survey of 336 small businesses in the US, 65% reported having less than 10% of their employees working remote before COVID-19. Now 56% of them have over 80% of employees working remotely. Interestingly, 19% of companies generating annual revenue of above $10 million are now considering expanding their remote workforce post-crisis, and 36% of companies generating less than $10 million are also looking to grow their remote workforce.

We’re going to see a lot more organizations continuing to operate remotely after the pandemic ends. This will mean fewer office leases and downtown commutes. It will also mean more opportunities for personalized courier and food delivery services, as well as unconventional meetings spaces (e.g. more coffee shops that offer bookable meetings rooms).

Digital Literacy on the rise

This past Saturday, my weekly conversation with my parents was held on Zoom. This was their first video conference ever. They wanted to do a test-run with me, as their Rotary Club has now moved its meetings online, and they needed to understand how it worked.

If your organization wasn’t using videoconferencing, online chat tools (like Slack), or shared documentation resources before, you’re likely playing catch-up now.

Zoom went from 10 million customers at the end of 2019, to 200 million by the beginning of April. The spotlight it was suddenly put under also highlighted the companies privacy and security shortcomings. This, in itself, was a great opportunity for other digital agencies looking to capitalize on the sudden move of everything to the web to learn something:

Yes, this is a good time to build services (or offer advisory services) related to working, learning, and interacting in a digital environment. Just don’t forget to build in the encryption, privacy, and other security aspects needed to keep your users safe!

Going virtual

Realtors are now hosting online virtual open houses, where they “walk” potential home buyers through the house for sale, live, to give them a better understanding of what it has to offer.

Lethbridge College actually used the pandemic as an opportunity to hold its Merging Realities conference (which showcases virtual and augmented reality technologie) entirely in VR. Keynote speaker Amy Lou Abernethy — President, Creative Director, and Chief Learning Strategist at AMP Creative — presented from her California home to an online audience of VR/AR enthusiasts. Organizer and Digital Alberta board member Kris Hodgson-Bright says he was so encouraged by the success of Merging Realities, he is seeing if there are opportunities for Digital Alberta to host a VR-based event.

Rural internet woes may finally be addressed??

Our lives have moved online. Families keep in touch through apps and videoconferencing. Even churches embraced broadcasting online to stay connected. But participating in these activities is only possible if you have a good internet connection. Many Albertans, particularly outside of the urban centres, have never had good connectivity to start with. And their previous calls for technical or funding support often went ignored, because at least their kids could still connect to the internet at school, and if necessary, they could go to the local library for connectivity. But that’s not possible now. Seeing adults and children sitting in the parking lots of schools, just to achieve connectivity, has been a good wake-up call for many Canadians unaware of the problem.

The issue of rural connectivity is now getting more attention than ever before, and governments and internet service providers are being pressured to find short and long-term solutions. We should never waste a good crisis — this could be the final straw that forces a real broadband solution to be found for all Albertans!

Live performance on Twitch by TheComplements

Artists will find new audiences (and permanent revenue streams)

Many of us who are familiar with Twitch know it primarily as a streaming tool for gaming. But how about watching a concert online?

Since March, dozens of musicians have been performing entire sets on Twitch. As The Verge pointed out, the way Twitch is set up for different funding sources just happens to make it ideal for non-gamers (such as musicians) to also benefit. As musician Ducky explains: “It supports different tiers of subscriptions and donations. People can subscribe to a channel for free with their Amazon Prime account. Fans can tip in micro amounts with things like Cheers. Other platforms usually just pay out on ad revenue or number of plays.”

Not only is this allowing artists to continue to generate revenue at a time when they can’t do physical performances, but it’s also giving them a new avenue to find new audiences for their music.

The (continued) rise of e-commerce

Food and grocery delivery services have seen a dramatic increase in business since the start of the pandemic (a trend you can expect to see continue post-crisis).

Video gaming goes mainstream?

While physical sports continues to be side-lined, e-sports is ideally suited to physical proximity requirements. This is already popular with young people. Perhaps now is the time to properly introduce the un-initiated to this sport?

Are we missing any future trends? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll add it to our list!

Business vector created by freepik –

Meagan Hampel
Meagan Hampel
An expert in technology communications with over 10 years of experience, Meagan is well-versed in translating complex topics into stories that can be understood by anyone. She spent four years working as a science reporter in the UK, covering a diverse range of research and industry breakthroughs. Since 2014, Meagan has led the communications team at Cybera, a not-for-profit, technology-neutral organization responsible for driving Alberta’s economic growth through the use of digital technology. She passionately believes in the importance of increasing the breadth and quality of Alberta’s digital resources, for the benefit of everyone. Meagan is also fascinated by new communications technologies, and the integration of multimedia tools with traditional storytelling.