An expert weighs in on how the pandemic is shaping the tech industry, and what this could means for the OHS sector
In March, COS looked at how COVID-19 was shaping the future of tech. The article, written a few weeks after the start of the pandemic in Canada, looked at how tech companies could help businesses and organizations face these new challenges, including the shift to working from home. A few months down the line, and with businesses now looking to re-open amid pandemic recovery efforts, tech is still very much at the forefront of relief efforts. COS recently spoke with Adrian Bartha, founder of eCompliance and North American president of Alcumus, about how the tech sector has been impacted by the virus, and what the sector will look like in a post-pandemic world.
“Generally speaking,” says Bartha, “most tech, especially software companies, have seen some positive benefits from [the pandemic] in some ways.”
He explains that there are companies that have definitely come out of the pandemic stronger, though there are also companies that have been heavily impacted by the economic ramifications of the virus. “No one really won in this pandemic,” says Bartha, “but there are definitely some businesses and business models that have benefitted from it.”
One of the reasons why many tech companies have been successful is that you can make changes in only a few weeks in tech which are a little harder to do in other sectors of the economy, he explains. Nevertheless, regardless of some of these benefits, the pandemic has obviously still affected a lot of businesses: “they still have had to do layoffs,” Bartha says, “some large companies which have been growing have laid of teams of tech people as they wanted to shore up cash flows.”
And, he says, you have smaller tech companies reliant of venture tech capital funding, so those companies have also had to lay off some workers. Though, Bartha says, many of these workers would find work from other companies relatively soon, he says that his own company has certainly been hiring more recently.
How has the tech sector helped businesses handling COVID-19, and how could it help with pandemic recovery efforts? Bartha says that he thinks “the tech sector is finding innovative ways to help different industries in ways that they would have before, but they’re now positioning in a way which lends itself to this environment” (this environment being the current pandemic). This includes the OHS sector.
Indeed there has been a slew of new apps and tech products available to those in the OHS sector directly as a result of the pandemic.
Bartha also says that companies that aren’t traditionally considered to be tech companies are also becoming a larger part of the market, “it’s not just software, it’s applied tech too,” he says.
For example, Bartha mentions innovations in UVC lighting, notably from companies like Lind Equipment: “They are not what most people would consider a tech company” says Bartha, but UVC lighting is starting to be proven as a way to decontaminate equipment and areas – a great solution to face the current pandemic. “To me,” says Bartha, “that’s physical tech and a really great innovation, and could really change the way we control these viruses in future.”
So, looking to the future, what will the tech sector look like in a post-pandemic world?
“The speed at which most organizations have been able to change things has been astonishing. It does make change easier.” Says Bartha.
And tech is very much going to be a part of most Canadians’ lives for the foreseeable future. For example, Bartha mentions that the federal government is finalizing its tracing app. The app, which has yet to be released, is called “COVID alert” and will first be tested in Ontario before being rolled out to the rest of the country, it is a voluntary contact-tracing app.
“It’s a sign that companies can work with governments,” he says, and coming back to what was mentioned earlier, “I think it’s also the evolution of what people consider tech.”
And these innovations will of course extend to the occupational health and safety sector. “I think historically in safety we’ve been a little bit behind in adopting new tech,” says Bartha, “the reason for it is because most of the products weren’t really good and weren’t rising to the occasion. Certainly, mobile apps and wearable tech which helps with social distancing are on the rise in the OHS sector.
Bartha says that “the onus is on companies to improve their products so they get adopted by the OHS sector, and make their products accessible. That’s slowly happening, especially if we introduce ideas outside of safety,” he says. “Even though the purpose of these products is safety, take from other sectors, products and domains to make [OHS tech] more accessible.”
eCompliance is an e-learning provider, in June they launched their e-learning platform on mobile. The eCompliance team is a representative of the North American arm of Alcumus Group. Alcumus Group recently acquired ContractorCheck to increase its portfolio of software-led risk management solutions. ContractorCheck is an online contractor safety and risk management system that connects organizations to accredited contractor companies. This acquisition will help grow the company’s North American arm.