In a year that was defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be the mother of all disruptors, if ever there was such a thing. The pandemic has had far-reaching implications for just about every industry, most negative but some positive.
The tech industry has arguably experienced tremendous changes this year, largely necessitated by lifestyle changes after people around the world were forced to adapt to new realities.
But it wasn't all just about the pandemic, there were also technological trends whose time had simply come, Covid-19 or not.
When all this is over and we look back to this year, these are the top tech trends that will define 2020.
Zoom became a thing
As the whole world was forced to stay at home in order to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus, it became necessary for people to find a way to interact safely at the comfort of their home.
Be it for work, school or even social events, technology provided a solution by connecting people virtually through channels like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Meet and Cisco Webex Meetings, even though many ''struggled'' to find the unmute button when called upon to speak.
Of these options though, Zoom, founded by Chinese-born American billionaire Eric Subrah Yuan, arguably won 2020. When the pandemic hit, Zoom's user growth soared and the app became a household name.
Now, with the momentum of 2020 on its heel, the company is looking to launch an email service to compete with Google's gmail.
When the term 5G hit the news globally earlier this year, it was for all the wrong reasons. Conspiracy theorists had it in their heads that somehow, the coronavirus was caused by 5G technology -- utter rubbish, obviously.
Simply put, 5G is the generation that precedes 4G, which in turn preceded 3G. But the reason why 5G is a gamechanger in tech lies in its ability to transmit data at tremendous speeds.
To put it into context, 4G, which has wide coverage in Kenya, can download content from the internet to your phone or computer at speeds of up to 100 megabites per second. 5G promises do the same with speeds of over 1 Gigabite per second.
Real-world speeds are likely to be slower than expected but 5G marks a significant milestone in wireless data transmission.
High-end smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are already shipping some of their top-end phones with 5G capabilities. And as tech blogger Marques Brownlee rightly argues, “cheap phones are getting good, and good phones are getting cheap.”
Soon enough, 5G phones will be available at affordable prices for the mwananchi as network providers set up the necessary 5G infrastructure.
As the pandemic kept a constant flow of Covid-19 patients into hospitals for treatment, people with other ailments shied away from hospitals due to fear of contracting Covid-19 in the process.
Technology, however, offered a lifeline to these individuals by connecting them with their doctors for consultation and drug prescription. Even those who suspected they had the novel coronavirus were able to be connected to doctors for diagnosis through initiatives like Safaricom’s Covid-19 call centres.
The sector still has a lot of potential for growth and the pandemic could have given it a shot in the arm.
We saw this in the recently concluded US presidential election, but who knows, it might just be rolled out in other presidential elections across the world, especially if it is likely to be disputed.
If you are on Twitter, you might have noticed disclaimers added on some of US President Donald Trump’s tweets whenever the lame-duck president falsely claimed victory over his opponent Joe Biden.
The disclaimers attached to some of his tweets include “This claim about election fraud is disputed” and “Multiple sources called this election differently.” Facebook also did something similar, attaching a disclaimer on posts relating to the US election.
The move by these social networks was/is intended to give users accurate information from independent sources about the election. As other countries across the world head for polls, it would be important for social media platforms to roll out a similar initiative to give the public accurate information wherever necessary, a brilliant solution offered by tech to combat so-called ''alternative facts''.
This year has also seen uptake of online shopping, be it through mobile Apps or directly through e-commerce websites like Jumia and Amazon.
With lockdowns and restricted movements not just in Kenya but across the globe necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, people opted to shop online and have products delivered instead of going out to shop conventionally.