ANKARA 

Amid the general chaos wreaked by coronavirus, one sector has in fact boomed, with video meetings and education replacing in-person visits: information and communication technology (ICT), an area marshaling the opportunities for product and service development triggered by lockdowns.

As the virus has increased our reliance on technology, “training module software and infrastructure for distance education will grow in importance in the days to come,” Kubra Erman Karaca, the head of Turkey’s Informatics Industry Association (TUBISAD), told Anadolu Agency.

Pointing to the importance of digitization during this unprecedented time, Karaca said the transition to the working model of the future was brought forward about five years thanks to the effective use of IT sector products and solutions to make it through the pandemic.

Karaca underlined that as physical meetings have been replaced by virtual ones, the next step will be using augmented reality glasses during meetings, which will help bridge the foreign language gap.

“As today’s experiences will boost the use of all those technologies, considerable opportunities will emerge towards product and service development for the sector,” she added.

Not just business

Karaca stressed that the influence of digitization is growing in the area of lifestyles in addition to business.

Multi-level shopping malls and stores are giving way to online sites that offer 24/7 service, while logistics firms will offer innovative solutions such as autonomous vehicles and drones, she stressed.

“Speed, quality, and price will be much better than in the past,” Karaca said.

Expanding 17% on average in the last five years, Turkey’s ICT sector performed well above the country’s economic growth rate, Karaca noted.

Citing the group’s latest figures, Karaca said in 2018 Turkey’s ICT sector grew to 131.7 billion Turkish liras ($27 billion).

“We foresee that the size of the sector hit 140 billion Turkish liras ($24.7 billion) in 2019,” she stressed.

“The software sector enjoyed positive performance while the increase in the last quarter of 2019 in hardware sales made a great contribution to the year-on-year growth based on Turkish liras.”

Software’s share of the information technology sector continues to rise, she pointed out.

‘ICT sector needs help too’

But the sector has not emerged from the pandemic unscathed, Karaca pointed out.

The high performance generally expected this year, supported by the positive course of developments based in political and foreign relations, was hit by the virus, which upended balances across the world, she underlined.

Saying that the companies with employees who have the skills to work in digital environments enjoy an advantage during the outbreak, Karaca stressed that firms that earn most of their income from online sales were less affected by the crisis.

But as informatics provide vital and managerial functions, and services such as infrastructure, communication, digital production, financial management, operational services, optimization, quality control, automation and security for all sectors, an adverse effect on those sectors is directly reflected to informatics and software, she pointed out.

“The IT sector might be hit by the decrease in investments and slowdown in services.

“Small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) will be the most battered in the ICT sector, like in other fields,” she said.

In light of this, Karaca called on governments to include the ICT sector in their bailout packages.

“The fact that the cautionary packages don’t cover the high-tech sectors will create problems in terms of the sector’s long-term competitiveness,” Karaca warned.

Noting that remote working did lead to some problems in internet infrastructure and speed, device supply, and maintenance and support, she said:

“In order to compensate for the devastating effects of the crisis in the short term, the ICT sector should also be included in [Turkey’s] Economic Stability Shield package.”

This March the government announced the Economic Stability Shield package to help companies cope with the economic fallout of the virus, which has claimed over a quarter-million lives worldwide.

Including debt payment delays and tax cuts across various sectors, the relief package is worth 200 billion Turkish liras ($28.5 billion).

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