The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world economy to its knees, a knock so unprecedented in the foreseeable history that even the way we do business is changing.
At first, the coronavirus disease discovered in China was being taken lightly as east Asia’s problem as was the case with bird and swine flus.
However, the effects globally have been alarming. These include over 253 000 deaths from over 4.1 million cases, airlines grounded, ships docked, jobs lost and workplaces closed or decongested.
Even prayer houses, shops, restaurants, schools closed and public transport are deserted.
This is the first time for many people to see the busy streets of New York empty, the crammed Eiffel Tower in France lonely, the Vatican in Rome empty and prestigious holiday destinations unpopulated.
Africa dominated by fragile economies has not been spared from the pandemic even though the continent has not registered a high number of infections and deaths.
Projections show that Africa will the next epicentre of the pandemic. God forbid.
So far, the World Health Organisation and other public health stakeholders are promoting several preventive measures, including washing hands with soap frequently, keeping social distance and staying home to avoid crowded spaces.
In Malawi, these measures have led to closure or decongestion of schools, workplaces, marketplaces, businesses and prayer centres.
Only essential workers are encouraged to move around while many are required to stay home.
Some countries have imposed lockdowns to stop transmission of the virus spread through droplets when speaking, coughing or sneezing. It is also transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces.
With students, employees and entrepreneurs working from home, the Internet has become an essential tool. It is now the backbone of e-learning, working from home and entrepreneurs running their businesses from their residences.
Many developed countries with necessary resources easily switched to the e-world order.
However, the switch has not been easy for Malawi and other developing countries.
For many years, Malawi has ignored calls to invest in the development of infrastructure that has become handy and inevitable with the Covid-19 emergency.
Internet and data charges in Malawi remain prohibitive and taxes imposed on essential electronic equipment are high.
Yet these can no longer be perceived as luxuries in the digital age given the new demands to prevent coronavirus transmission.
We have now come to a stage where schools can only offer lessons electronically for students to continue learning while home.
Even businesses have had to embrace the new phenomenon of working from home to stay alive.
All these demands catalysed by the public health crisis may not end soon.
As catastrophic as Covid-19 is, it is an opportunity for citizens, the private sector and government to change the mindset towards digital technologies and invest more to catch up with digital trends.
The country needs to create and implement policies that would sustain digital platforms that have proved to be the only resilient and inevitable way out of the global emergency.
Malawi’s Covid-19 response includes some digital-friendly mitigations which are not conducive enough to full development and exploitation of solutions like e-commerce, e-learning, telemedicine and other benefits.
The private and public sectors have huge tasks to automate a high number of business processes that demand the physical presence of both clients and operators which may fuel Covid-19 transmission.
The outbreak has exposed numerous inefficiencies that we have tolerated in terms of digital solutions.
Going forward, the pandemic has reset the way we live and do business.
As we continue to fight the pandemic, we need to think smart and truly go digital.