Telecommunication gadgets imports more than doubled to Sh8.01 billion in the four month lock-down period when most people worked and learned remotely.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), this was a 56.29 percent growth from the previous year’s value of Sh5.18 billion in the same period.
The surge in sales was occasioned by lock down and travel restriction advisories to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. While some businesses suspended operations altogether, most companies had their employees working from home and children turned to e-learning to catch up with their syllabus.
The restrictions with imposed alternatives increased the demand for computers, smartphones and tablets as well as increased data and Home Wi-Fi demand.
“The pandemic has been a technological equaliser of sorts, where people previously unaccustomed to using technology in the workplace have had no choice but to adapt,” Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) executive director Jacqueline Mugo told the Business Daily via email.
“Companies have quickly figured out how to serve their customers and clients remotely, and there is no going back.”
Kenya’s first Covid-19 case was announced on March 12 and thereafter, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the closing of all institutions and encouraged employers to allow their staff to work from home.
The numbers surged between April and July, prompting the extension of inter-county travel restrictions, dusk to dawn curfews and international travel bans. President Kenyatta announced a gradual reopening of the reopening of the economy from August and since then, more people have started reporting to work.
Some companies have quickly adapted to working remotely and seem to have embraced the idea long term. Benson Wairegi, Britam Holdings Chief Executive Officer, says about 70 percent of their staff are working from home.
“We shall never go back to the old ways of working. That means we are going to reconfigure our office space. We will perhaps require less working space because people are going to be enabled to work from home,” Mr Wairegi said in a recent interview.
Companies are using video-conferencing apps such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet to hold corporate meetings and virtual webinars. Egerton, University of Nairobi and a couple of institutions have provided students the option for online learning, even holding virtual graduations more recently.
Safaricom reported a surge in the demand of data and Home WiFi since the outbreak of the pandemic in April. The teecom giant announced that it would double the speeds during the period and has so far done so for about 300,000 clients and connected even more people on their fibre optic network.
“People are discovering they can work from home. Education and learning will change. Small businesses are going to learn they can digitise their operations and operate more smartly,” Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said earlier.
The shift has also exposed more corporate data to hackers who have also shifted their attention to Home WiFi. More companies now allow their staff to access critical data using their laptops at home and this has heightened security risks.