Covid-19 and the I.T industry

The coronavirus has brought about unprecedented times in our world. As we write this (8 May 2020), globally there have been 3 845 607 cases and 269 564 deaths. In South Africa (where we are based) there have been 8232 cases and 161 deaths1.

It’s spread still continues, although in some places the number of new daily cases have begun to drop. This drop however, should not be confused with the eradication of the coronavirus. Until we have a viable vaccine our livelihoods will still be impacted 2. We still have to practice caution, keeping to the guidelines health officials have given us3

The coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives. With our interconnected world, one would have never thought there would be at time ‘it stood still’. From Businesses, to flights, to schools, we saw a closure of all. Although in some places the economies have begun to reopen, by and large, operations are not at the same scale as before.

With this, we thought to look at the impact the coronavirus has had on the I.T industry and technology in general. We shall do this by covering 3 headings. Firstly, it’s impact on software development, then its impact on hardware (computer) development, and lastly its impact on apps.

Impact on software development

The software development industry finds itself in an interesting place during this time. In modern times, software development has become more collaborative, with the need for physical human interaction becoming less essential. For instance, Automattic, the company that made WordPress, has based their whole business model on working remotely4.

You also have the rise of opensource software, in which development is not (usually) bound by geographical location, with anyone from anywhere being able to contribute to the software. A good example of this is linux (which is the underlying operating system for most mobile devices5). This operating system is an opensource project, of which anyone can contribute, no matter where your geographical location.

With this ‘dna’ of remote collaboration, the software development industry has, by and large, continued to operate amidst the pandemic. If you are dependent on a certain software, expect updates and maintenance of it to still continue.

It must be noted though, that although the software development industry can adapt more easily to remote work, its levels of productivity are still impacted. Not having the option to go to the office, could result in some being less productive. For others, working remotely means being around their kids, which again can lead to less productivity. There is also what is known as ‘crunch time’ in the software development world. This is when productivity ramps up inline with a release of a software product/version. At these times there is great value in being together.

Impact on hardware (computer) development

Most computer hardware manufacturing/assembly happens in China6. It’s not surprising therefore that when the virus was still rampant within China, many computer hardware resellers and manufacturers were worried. Linus Tech Tips did a very informative video on this back in February. Rather than attempt to detail all the nuances, we would rather point people to this video, which covers the impact in great detail. https://youtu.be/SPoPwrQwm_g

China seem to have however managed to restrain the spread of the virus, and its economy has also started to reopen7. With this, hardware factories have also started to operate. Taking this into account, we don’t anticipate any major delays in regards to hardware products (unless the situation changes).

Impact on Apps

It's unsurprising that during this time we have seen a surge in the usage of teleconferencing apps. All the main teleconferencing apps have reported rises in usage, with zoom taking the spotlight8. In the earlier stages of the pandemic we saw microsoft’s servers suffer strain as usage increased on their systems9. We have also seen facebook increase the group video calling size to 8 to aid with communication on their popular whatsapp platform10.

Streaming applications have also seen a rise in usage, as people are now spending more time at home. Netflix’s April 2020 subscriptions surpassed their projected figures by over 100%11. Youtube has also recorded a 500% increase in the daily consumption of videos12. Video game traffic has also increased, with some gaming servers struggling due to the strain on their networks13

Coronavirus Related Apps

In the earlier stages of the pandemic we also saw an increase of corona related mobile apps. Although some might have had good intentions in building them, some saw it as an opportunity to exploit users by bundling malware in their apps. With this the google play store and the apple app store made a conscious decision to restrict corona related apps they were accepting (only corona related app from official organisations/countries were being accepted)14

At this point, we would also want to add a word of caution to anyone who has been told to install an app to get stats on the corona pandemic (unless the author of the app is an official organisation). This particularly so if they are asking you to sideload the app (i.e. not installing it via an official app store).

What about web apps?

As with the initial increase of corona related mobile apps, we have also seen an increase on corona related websites. Again, caution must be followed, but since websites run in a more closed and ‘guarded’ environment (i.e in the browser) it is much harder for someone to install malware onto your system through a website (usually requires some user engagement on your part/social engineering. Read more here)

Another thing to take note of is potential misinformation. As there is no official (programmable) means for developers to get coronavirus related data, most updates have to be done manually. With this there might be delays with the data you are viewing, or the data could be wrong from capturing/calculation errors.

If there is a 3rd party (none official) website that is presenting coronavirus related data in a more helpful/readable way and you want to use it, please ensure that:-

  1. You're using a reputable browser, and it’s up to date

  2. The site has a certain level of credibility (at least get some information about creator of the site to ensure some legitimacy)

  3. You always confirm/cross reference the data you view on the site with official data

Official Coronavirus Websites

South Africa - https://sacoronavirus.co.za/

Global - https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

That's it from us for now. Do follow us on social media, or join our mailing list here to be updated whenever we publish new blog posts.


1 Please see https://sacoronavirus.co.za/ for current data on South Africa and https://covid19.who.int/ for current global data

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