Export adviser of Enterprise Estonia: the ICT sector could be among the first ones to emerge from the crisis

15.04.2020

Following Singapore’s example, the main business opportunities related to the coronavirus have emerged in healthcare, e-commerce, streaming services, and smart applications. Kristel Alver, who is the Export Adviser of Enterprise Estonia in Singapore, writes that a similar trend is reaching Estonia and the rest of Europe, and advises the ICT sector to quickly prepare for this.

Singapore has allocated 6.4 billion dollars from this year’s budget to address the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The aim is to help employees maintain their jobs through wage subsidies and retraining, as well as to help enterprises with cash flow and operating costs. More aid will be targeted at the five sectors most affected by the virus: tourism, aviation, retail business, food services, and transport. At the same time, there are also enterprises that have received more work in this difficult situation.

As more and more people work from home or stay indoors due to the virus, the number of food orders at local courier enterprises Grab and Deliveroo has increased by 20 percent in recent weeks. Foodpanda, which delivers food home, shows a 10 percent increase every week.

The statistics of the e-commerce platform Lazada grocery store also show large orders and unprecedented demand – an increase of nearly 300 percent. Buyers spend up to ten times more on food, up to six times more on personal care products and household items, and up to five times more on paper products. When the first Covid-19 case was announced in Singapore on 23 January, the sales of Lazada computer accessories increased by 40 percent. Private persons and enterprises recognised the need to protect themselves and their employees and to find the right tools to create a more favourable and productive work environment at home.

Since the introduction of isolation measures, viewing figures of such streaming services as Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime and now Apple TV+ have also increased significantly.

The Singapore government has placed great emphasis on developing its ‘smart country’ programme, which has provided them with digital tools to respond quickly to the COVID-19 outbreak. One example is the TraceTogether mobile app, which supports Singapore’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through community-based contact tracking. Through the exchange of short-range Bluetooth signals between people’s mobile phones, each phone can identify other TraceTogether phones in their immediate vicinity. The application estimates the distance between users and the duration of meetings. The data of meetings is stored in encrypted form on each user’s phone for 21 days (which includes the virus incubation period), and the application notifies the person if it is subsequently found that they have been in contact with a virus carrier. More information and an explanatory video can be found at www.TraceTogether.gov.sg.

Communication between patients and doctors through teleconsultations has increased by about 60 percent. Doctor Anywhere ( https://doctoranywhere.com) has shown a 70 percent increase in usage over the past six weeks. The application includes a market for healthcare and wellness products, the most popular products of which include disinfectants, immune-boosting supplements, and vitamins. Services such as (domestic worker) health check-ups, vaccinations, and others have also become popular.

Thus, following the example of Singapore, the first opportunities have emerged in the healthcare sector, but also in e-commerce, streaming services, and smart applications. I believe that similar trends are emerging both in Estonia and in Europe, so I recommend Estonian entrepreneurs in both domestic and distant markets to contribute to the opportunities that may arise in connection with e-commerce. Smart applications that provide simple and practical solutions and contribute to solving the current difficult situation could continue to be the focus of our startups. For example, we could see Starship robots delivering groceries safely in major cities around the world. Quick response is half the battle!

This project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Kristel Alver
Export Adviser  in Singapore
kristel.alver@eas.ee

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