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Leveraging technology in the wake of the Coronavirus

While the novel coronavirus brought about physical confinement of human activities in many parts of the world, interestingly countries and businesses that have infused digital and innovative technology in their operations have continued to relatively thrive amid the worldwide pandemic.

These countries and businesses are deploying emerging technologies to help curb the spread of the virus as well as finding medication; both preventive and curative. Pending the time the world gets successful with discovering a vaccine or cure, people across the globe are increasingly leveraging technology to continue their lives while the fight against the coronavirus persist.

Today our new normal includes ‘work from home’ and ‘stay at home’ – the COVID-19 mantra. However, the adoption of technology has made the new normal a lot more feasible for the tech savvy majority, while the erstwhile technology-shy people have had to adapt involuntarily.

For instance, businesses have moved meetings online. Practically all business meetings including those with teams and clients are held virtually. Microsoft Teams reported a 500% increase in usage, Zoom and other conferencing tools have all reported increase in usage. Learning and knowledge sharing sessions online have increased. Consultants, teachers and subject matter experts have taken to these technology tools to ply their trade.  Anti-epidemic Robots are being deployed for faster and safer health service delivery.

More people are signing up on Apps to socialize, exercise, shop and even access healthcare. The value of digital channels, products and offerings has become glaring to both individuals and companies alike. As these tech tools continue to shape the way we live in the new normal in spite of the constraints of the pandemic, one thing that has remained a common denominator has been the need to make payments. Whether people are shopping, checking on loved ones, downloading Apps, meeting clients or have training sessions, they all need to make payments, one way or another. It is therefore no wonder that the digital payment tools remain some of the most embraced technology tools across the world.

Payments, being a recurring activity with every human endeavour has an opportunity to transform faster and be easily adopted. Incidentally, we have seen the significant increase from cash payment to digital payments. Reports have it that banks have to enhance their digital payment options; deploying more ATM, PoS, App, agents banking etc.

Beyond the banks, integrated digital payment service providers such as Interswitch Group have enhanced their platforms to ensure that Nigerians can make safe payments faster and more conveniently while trying to keep safe amidst the scare of the coronavirus. Across the Interswitch networks, Nigerians can make payments using ATM, PoS, credit/debit cards, Apps etc.

As a payment technology company, the Interswitch Group realized that payment will constitute one of the painpoints for Nigeria during these trying times. It has further enhanced its digital payment platform – Quickteller, to allow for people to make payments for goods and services, collect payments and transfer funds.

In leveraging its technology competencies with its partners across the financial and digital payment space, Interswitch has ensured that their support to these partners are continually functional so their customers can seamlessly transact across platforms, apps, PoS and ATM. This means that businesses and households can transact seamlessly anywhere. 

In another partnership, Interswitch through its card scheme subsidiary – Verve International leveraged its alliance with PAX International to leverage the partners’ technology competencies in combating the virus. Both parties committed to promote the adoption of contactless point-of-sale (POS) payment solutions across the West African market. Both partners underscored the realization that the widespread adoption of contactless payment solutions has great propensity to better mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These contactless payment solutions include payments with contactless-enabled credit and debit cards, as well as QR codes. Other contactless solutions the company is persuading its customers to adopt is the use of USSD codes.

Through its health-tech subsidiary, e-Clat Healthcare Limited, Interswitch is building and activating user-friendly, locally-nuanced software platform for state governments across Nigeria. With the software, members of the public can assess their individual risk and pre-disposition to the novel coronavirus as a first-line intervention. The software platform analyses users’ information provided from answers to a series of questions around risk factors, recent exposure, observed symptoms, health and travel history. This inturn reduces the risk from contact spread and undue exposure to the overstretched medical facilities.

As our lives begin to return to what we used to know it to be, it is undisputed that a lot will remain changed. The new ways that we have adopted may continue with us for a very long time and perhaps open the way for new discoveries and technological advancement. A critical part of our lives that will remain changed will be our payment pattern. More people will come onto the digital payment space, financial service providers will offer more digital solutions. Fintech, TechFin and digital platforms will become more integrated. 

Owing to the importance of payments and settlements for trade and economic growth, the need to adopt digital payment cannot be overemphaisesd. In our new normal, travels will be limited but cross border trade will continue. The rails that will ensure the seamless facilitation of these economic activities will be payment leveraged by technology-digital payment and Interswitch will be there to facilitate these payments.

Despite the limited extent of technology advancement and adaptation in Nigeria and the Africa continent, it is important that the governments, businesses and households continue to seek technology solutions that will not only help fight the coronavirus, but help us thrive in the new normal.

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