It has come, in the recent past, to the understanding of almost everyone that the digital economy with its modern and evolving tools constitutes a sure and futuristic source for job creation and wealth generation. More so by virtue of the calibre and number of most youthful people it attracts and the growing desire by many a sector and stakeholders to move from the hitherto manual way of doing things. Rapid evolution that leaves few, if not none, indifferent!
With the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic; call it Covid-19, that has obliged all and sundry to readjust and embrace varied barrier measures among which physical distancing, the digital economy has stood out as the rare forum to keep lives and livelihoods going, after all.
To say the least, digitization has come in to bridge the gaps left by required shutdowns and social distancing measures. Many have thus come to the understanding that without digital tools and technologies, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to keep working, shopping, going to school et al. More so as human-to-human contacts are being discouraged.
Before the outbreak of the deadly virus, meetings and conferences grouping huge numbers of people had been the order of the day. All these have given way to visual platforms like video-conferences via skype, zoom among others. Schools are increasingly adopting online teaching and learning, sometimes patients-medics are obliged to meet online for consultation and prescription. In effect, tele-work and telemedicine have greatly gained in intensity ever since Covid-19 scared people from meeting as usual. The business sector is not left out as the electronic selling and buying (e-commerce) which was evolving timidly is obliged to blossom owing to the fact that frontiers are closed and movements discouraged as much as possible. In fact, almost everything is done online now.
As devastating as the pandemic may be, it has however caused a great surge of the digital economy. It is easy to get to petty trading zones now and hear traders tell customers that they can hence pay for what they buy by mobile money. Even some pastors have resorted to recording their gospel messages and distributing them to faithful via mobile platforms or organising electronically-aided church services to keep the propagation of God’s message going. Even small loan and saving schemes fondly called “njiangis” are increasingly going online as members can no longer meet as usual. As people all know, this digital order is far from being new but simply brought into sharp focus by the challenges of the time.
At a time Cameroon and the world are going physically contactless, no one doubts the fact that the vast majority of interactions with customers and employees must take place virtually. With rare exception nonetheless, operating digitally appears to be the only way to stay in business. In fact, there are two options: Going digital, or going dark, in other words striving to measure up or perishing with the challenges of the time. Experts hold that with the right approach, almost everyone and businesses in particular, can come out of the global crusade against the dreaded pandemic stronger, more agile, and more customer-centric than before.
Cameroonians from all walks of life therefore have an interest to align with the innovation. There is absolute need to measure up with the revolution else perishing would be near inevitable. But there are issues that must be handled wholly and head-on. Network coverage is still a problem in several localities in the country. The least of challenges worth surmounting for the vital measuring up to the digital evolution is not broadband that needs to be faster, the cost of megabits needs to be cheaper and many more people need to have access to the digital economy. Government’s commitment to work on the digital identity to ensure that every Cameroonian has an identity and can participate should more than ever be unrelenting.
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