World at a distance

World at a distance

The transition to online processes that do not require physical interaction of people with each other, will be almost the main consequence of the pandemic.

COVID-19 is walking around the planet. So far, no one is at risk of giving an accurate forecast of events - neither the World Health Organization nor the world's leading economists. But the other thing is clear: the quarantine has led to a significant growth of the market of services that can be provided remotely. For industries that were originally created as online services, the current situation is a point of growth. Others, classical, have to adapt to the current situation. Thirds, the industries of the future, will bring their rapid growth closer due to the pandemic of coronavirus.

The virus is the engine of progress

As the Chinese experience has shown, the most effective method against the spread of COVID-19 was the timely introduction of total quarantine. According to Alexander Ivanov, President of the National Association of Remote Trade (NADT), quarantine measures have led to the fact that in China, where the Internet trade is already very developed, and South Korea, the leader of online sales for residents in the world, the e-commerce sector continued to grow. Well, in Italy, whose residents traditionally preferred online trade live communication (the country was an outsider in the number of online sales), for February this year the volume of online sales tripled compared to February 2019.
"There is no such growth in Russia yet, but even the increase in demand that we are seeing, online trade has already felt, especially in such segments as food and personal hygiene items," says Alexander Ivanov. According to him, there is a regularity: if a person first used an online store, received an order on time and in full, he instantly becomes a regular user of such a service.
However, the classic supermarkets, which decided to go online while they are stalling, they have problems with the delivery time and the fact that they bring not everything that was ordered, adds the head of NADT: "But they will cope. Just all the other e-commerce market participants have long been accustomed to peak downloads - on New Year's Day, "Cyber Mondays" and other days of the consumer boom, and food sellers were not ready for it."
According to eMarketer analysts, the volume of the Chinese e-commerce market amounted to $1.93 trillion last year, an increase of 27.3% compared to 2018. China, which ranks first, is followed by the United States ($587 million, 14% more than in 2018), the United Kingdom ($142 million, plus 10.9%), Japan ($115, plus 4%) And South Korea ($103.5, plus 18.1%).
Similar processes are taking place in a completely different online industry - telemedicine. In it, consumer loyalty can also be won in one remote session. Coronavirus-related restrictions on people's communication are becoming a driver of this market, says Kirill Kay, Senior Vice President of Innovation at Skolkovo Foundation. "The telemedicine industry is mainly commercially based. The more patients will start to trust it, at least once using the service, the faster this market will grow," continues Kirill Kayem. In his opinion, some consumers will develop a habit of using telemede instead of visiting a medical organization. Due to the restriction of contact between people, it is likely that a law will be passed that will allow remote diagnosis - this is another driver of telemedicine development, the expert predicts.
"I assume that after the end of the pandemic such permission will not be revoked and the possibility of remote diagnosis will remain. The number of sensors and portable devices for remote diagnostics will increase, but it is a process that will require more time for their development, testing, validation and production. Prototypes already exist; most likely, now they will enter the market faster," Kirill Kayem says.
Another area that has been developed strongly in China, and then in other countries with the introduction of quarantine and the closure of educational institutions, is distance learning. The situation can be compared to the strike of London Underground workers in 2014. Then residents were forced to look for alternative ways to get to work: on foot, by bus, bicycle, taxi. And when the subway started working again, not all passengers returned to it.
"Forced to go online in the coming months will somehow teach many teachers and parents how to use modern solutions in education. They will later become an integral part of the day-to-day educational process. Now we are actively monitoring projects that are involved in distance learning," says Vadim Kovalev, director of the Center for Educational Technologies of the Russian Venture Company (RVC).
According to him, the most popular solutions for users today are "YaClass," InternetUrok, Foxford, Mobile Electronic Education, Algorithmics and Codwards. "There are two key limitations for their multiple growth: teacher training and platform technical capabilities. This is a narrow neck of many projects," the expert explains.

Forced acceleration

One of the most affected industries, tourism, can also go online. According to the Executive Director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia Maya Lomidze, if most tourist destinations do not open before September, the losses of Russian operators of outbound tourism will amount to 25 billion rubles, the entry - 12 billion rubles.
However, the Association of Tour Operators do not lose optimism. "Sooner or later the pandemic will end. The tourist market will change a lot, but it will not cease to exist. Only large and strong companies that will be able to endure a few months on their own or borrowed funds will survive," predicts Maya Lomidze.
One of the areas of development of the tourism industry is the sale of vouchers online. The buyer remotely chooses a tour with all its components - air tickets, insurance, living conditions, etc. He does not go to the office of the tour company, and pays for the ticket with a bank card and receives by email all the necessary documents for travel, says Maya Lomidze.
Tour operators started work in this direction two years ago. In 2019, such projects entered the initial stage of operation, 2020 was to be decisive for online booking of tours. "And now these technologies can either roll back to the starting positions, or make a huge leap forward," adds Maya Lomidze.
The banking sector will also be forced to accelerate further online transition, with Russia now in its third year among the top five countries in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa), according to Deloitte Digital.
Most Russians actively use fintech in everyday life - transfer money to accounts by phone number, use smartphones as contactless bank cards, open accounts in Challenger banks, which do not have branch networks and all services are on the Internet (Tinkoff, Rocketbank, Modulbank, etc.). The latest initiative related to COVID-19: The Electronic Money Association proposed to the Bank of Russia to allow citizens to open new bank accounts and personalized electronic wallets via video link in order not to visit offices in the face of the pandemic. It is not yet known how the Central Bank will react to this appeal.
Now more than 90% of banking transactions in Russia are already available online - through Internet banks or mobile applications. As biometrics evolve to recognize the faces and voices of customers, online banking will grow even more actively, said Sergey Suverov, a senior analyst at BCS Premier. He reminds that with the help of biometrics it is already possible to remotely become a customer of a new bank without face-to-face identification in the office, for example, to open a deposit or issue a loan. "This gives banks both new opportunities and increases competition, as the transition of the client from one bank to another is simplified. Nevertheless, we see that in general Russians are reluctant to hand over their biometrics to banks. But due to the viral situation, remote service in banks will develop even more dynamically. For example, those people who have not yet used online services will start to exploit them," the expert believes.

Unmanned disinfection

The pandemic has created unique conditions for the rapid introduction of unmanned and remotely operated vehicles. Autonomous cars, disinfecting streets and hospitals in China are just one of many examples, said Konstantin Kaisin, director of technology competitions at RVC. "We must take into account that the active push was given to the introduction of relatively simple solutions. And teams developing fully automated driverless cars of the fifth level are still experiencing the same difficulties as other industries: in quarantine conditions it is more difficult to carry out research and testing," the expert explains. "It is important to record the mental shift that has taken place over the last month: the world has suddenly realized that new technologies in general and drones in particular have to do not only with the distant future, but also with concrete applications today. In the next year or two, this will have a significant positive impact on the development of driverless cars," adds Konstantin Kaisin.
The growth of remote services is not unlimited, warns the emeritus economist of the Russian Federation Yakov Mirkin: "Online will really become more, but this growth has limits. We biologically need physical contact with other people, with the material world, we need movement." But if the situation with COVID-19 drags on, the global economy faces serious challenges, Yakov Mirkin believes: "The longer the pandemic continues, the more simplified the structure of national economies will be. Access to vital resources such as food, water, energy, heat, clothing, transportation, communications will be more important to consumers."
The production of "simple things" - what we consume daily, the manufacturers of "complex things" will feel much worse. The international supply chains of food and supplies will largely be washed out, the economist continues. "Roughly speaking, we will see a reduction in the level of globalization to 40-50% of the previous one. And then everything will be five or seven years to recover, as a piece of scorched forest grows again," sums up Yakov Mirkin.

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