Romania has been ranked among the last countries in the European Union when it comes to digitalization by several different studies, but this doesn’t mean that the country can’t move quickly towards higher rates of digitalization and catch up with the rest of EU, said Mihnea Radulescu, Enterprise Business Unit Director at Vodafone Romania, during the first Call4Leaders video conference, hosted by Business Review.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many companies, some to a larger extent than others.
“What we saw during the state of emergency was that those companies that were more advanced in terms of digitalization were able to adapt more easily to the new reality,” said Mihnea Radulescu, adding that there were companies that found ways to continue operating and thrive in online sales even in the hotel and restaurant industries.
One of the few good things that have come out of the COVID-19 crisis is that most companies are actively thinking about digitalization, online presence or automation.
“At Vodafone, we have a large client base, from small and very small companies to large corporations. Sure, there are different levels of training, but the important thing is that we are seeing this desire for digitalization in all of them as they have understood what technology can do for them,” said Radulescu.
The power to adapt was proven in the state of emergency when thousands of employees were switched to a home-working environment within a matter of days. It was not easy, work-from-home for many companies doesn’t mean just having a laptop and an internet connection to start working. For employees in call centers or those who still use a desktop computer at the office, setting up at home was not an easy task. But the results were incredible and companies whose employees could work from remote places didn’t experience any pause in activity.
“Connectivity or communication infrastructure has become a utility like water or electricity. Like us at Vodafone, all internet and communications providers saw their data traffic rapidly increasing, especially on fixed lines, but the networks worked without any problems,” noted Radulescu.
Unsurprisingly, Bucharest and Romania in general are among the best prepared places in Europe when it comes to working from home, mainly due to the quality of the communications infrastructures.
Technology for everyone
Companies’ requirements and needs related to the digital solutions have evolved during the pandemic crisis.
“After a good setup for a home office, companies started to ask for more sophisticated things, like secure online environments or backup connectivity for remote employees. We already had backup solutions with mobile-connected Wi-Fi routers, which ensure round-the-clock backup. We even offered free data traffic to customers who were most affected by the crisis,” explained Mihnea Radulescu.
Vodafone was also asked for solutions for temperature screening in companies and institutions, making sure that in case someone had a fever when entering a building action could be taken quickly. The main opportunities today are from Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. “I see great appetite and potential for IoT solutions, with sensors connected through mobile networks, which ensure not only connectivity, but also business solutions, increasing efficiency and productivity.” Radulescu noted.
From automation to healthcare, there are IoT solutions for everything.
“There are solutions that allow doctors to perform ultrasounds on patients online! Before the crisis, such things may have sounded like science-fiction, but now they can become a reality,” said Mihnea, explaining that the same types of automated solutions have also found their way into agriculture. By means of sensors and connected equipment, IoT can bring value to the business of any company, valuable information and data for their activity. “5G technology will allow us to make a leap in the machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity zone, with a latency that is close to zero. That will change the future, we will experience a new reality much sooner than we might expect,” he added.
The challenge for all providers, including Vodafone, the leader of the Romanian IoT market, will be to bring these solutions to small companies. “SMEs are the backbone of the economy and we should help them when they are in need, we should move the technology closer to them. Vodafone already has solutions than can be customised to a certain level, but we need to offer even more,” concluded Mihnea Radulescu.