COVID-19 economic impact: NI's tech community fights back

  • Although the current COVID-19 crisis may be detrimental for some businesses, the technology sector is being given the chance to step up and thrive amidst the most unprecedented health and economic concerns this generation has seen.

    Possibly the most community-driven tech initiative is Open Source Ventilator Ireland.

    It is a team of volunteer engineers, designers and medical professionals working together to develop a low-cost and open-source emergency-use ventilator which the government announced a demand for last week. 

    The ventilators are to be producible at scale to aid the treatment of coronavirus patients, which the volunteers hope will address the shortage of global life-saving equipment.

    London venture capital company Hummingbird Ventures also announced it is investing in early stage start-ups focusing on COVID-19 solutions including prevention, diagnostics, therapeutics and remote tech.

    Partner at the firm, Firat Ileri said on LinkedIn that “as time is of the essence, we can write cheques within 24 hours over video calls.”

    Fiona Bennington, a Belfast-based product and design developer has begun fundraising alongside other volunteers to develop and make face shields rapidly to get them to where they are needed locally as quickly as possible.

    An Irish digital health start-up called Akkure has launched its free ‘COVIDMedBot’, an online personalised risk assessment and guideline tool for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    However, there can be no doubt that some tech businesses will struggle. Even the digital giant Microsoft has announced the closure of all its stores globally.

    A tech recruitment consultant for Morgan McKinley told Sync NI that although they are still holding video conference calls with potential clients, the fear of tech companies postponing or cancelling the hiring process will have a knock-on effect not only for the tech sector, but the recruitment industry also.

    “The recovery from a coronavirus-triggered recession will usher in a new era in which how we live, do business and invest will fundamentally change,” affirms Nigel Green, CEO the deVere Group, a global independent financial advisory organisation.

    He added that “we can expect this recession to be deep but short. The slowdown will be temporary because it’s not caused by deep-rooted problems and imbalances in the economy, rather by a wholly unexpected shock that’s gripped the world.”

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    He continued: “Every recession produces a new world. This one will too. The coronavirus outbreak can be expected to speed up the so-called Fourth Revolution, which is fuelled by new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and mobile supercomputing.

    “New industries will emerge and, of course, there will be winners and losers. This will mean job losses in some sectors and huge, possibly unprecedented, job and investment opportunities in others.

    “Enforced social distancing will highlight how families, friends and colleagues can interact, remain connected and work, how businesses can still efficiently operate, and how investors can manage assets via advancing digital infrastructures.

    “The disruption and shifts will underscore that we live in a time of great capabilities and great promise.

    “But to build and protect their wealth as the world adapts to a new era, investors should be revising their portfolios to mitigate risk and take advantage of the opportunities.”

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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