Mixed fortunes for Dutch SITS vendors as Covid-19 bites

Mixed fortunes for Dutch SITS vendors as Covid-19 bites

COVID-19 is severely disrupting business in regions across the world, and the Netherlands is no exception. 

The country has adopted a slightly cautious approach to enforcing a national lockdown, so what has been the impact on the country’s bellwether IT suppliers?

The early signs are that the majority have managed to keep services up and running, albeit in a remote capacity. At the same time, some companies are experiencing supply chain delays due to border restrictions, manufacturing facility closures, while others experience an increase in demand and operations. 

KPN Business reported that digital innovation projects in the Dutch Healthcare industry have fast-tracked from years to days. KPN has seen more progress in digital innovation over the last few weeks than over the previous five years, with decisions being taken almost instantly. The company expects the Dutch healthcare system to undergo a fundamental digital shift during, and post COVID-19. A few examples include remote GP consultations via video capabilities, an increase in augmented reality devices for remote care, cybersecurity and access authentication measures, Big Data analytics, automation, and an overall rise in telehealth technologies. The load on the eHealth network has increased by 400-500% as medical staff widely use remote capabilities. KPN has responded by bolstering bandwidth and connection capabilities surrounding healthcare institutions, and it is leveraging its KPN Health Messenger to connect patients and family members. 

Additionally, in cooperation with VTM, KPN is providing free mobile communication units to healthcare institutions, and the Dutch telco is also supporting the rollout of the Corona Check app developed by OLVG while leveraging KPN’s medical call centers.  

Philips has seen a tremendous increase in demand in health technologies and services, leading the manufacturer to set up global and regional task forces to monitor and support Philips’s operations. However, the company reported it had suffered a decrease in its consumer product portfolio. Philips has ramped up the production of diagnostic imaging systems, patient monitors, and ventilators. It expects to double production within the next eight weeks and achieve a four-fold increase by the third quarter of 2020. Additionally, Philips is rolling out telehealth solutions for ICUs to connect caregivers and patients at home. The company is also in talks with governments to facilitate access to critical materials and components by lowering barriers such as export controls and tariffs to accelerate logistics, as well as exemptions for critical suppliers from lockdown measures.

Enterprise software and ERP provider Unit4 is offering a free six-month subscription to its Intuo employee engagement platform. This platform enables business managers and HR departments to get a better understanding of how their remote working employees are performing and coping in the era of COVID-19. This software also embeds mandatory breaks, a feature the company expects to gain more attention for remote working.  

Unit4 also expects the education system to fundamentally change in a post COVID-19 era. Outdated ERP systems and end-of-life student information systems (SISs) will likely be modernized or replaced by more innovative SaaS solutions as organizations shift to S/4HANA. As a result, the company expects an increase in remote education and management platforms.

Location, navigation, and map technology specialist TomTom has experienced a drop in demand due to the closure of automotive manufacturing sites across the globe. However, the company has received multiple requests by governments and other organizations to provide data analysis of traffic patterns shifts, a result of travel restrictions. This data is a crucial indicator enabling authorities to track the COVID-19 spread. 

Other Dutch IT and software providers such as Exact, AFAS Software, Centric, and Cegeka have developed new systems and processes to facilitate remote working and ensure business continuity. Exact is offering 24/7 support for its product portfolio and is providing webinars to support remote working. Centric has partnered with 2Xplain to provideconsulting and implement regulatory and compliance changes on Centric’s HR and Payroll software platforms. AFAS Software is offering online courses and webinars to support businesses with the customization and related services for its software, including Citrix Workspace, AFAS payroll, AFAS HR, AFAS Finance. While Cegeka partnered with Youston to offers physical mail digitalization services to companies with daily mail over 30 items. Both companies ensure the digitization and company access to mail per GDPR guidelines.

Looking ahead, COVID-19 has accelerated the need for new technologies to support remote and mobile technologies. The Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport (VWS) has made funds available for digital innovation to support remote working capabilities for Health organizations and businesses. A special emergency regulation has been set up within the eHealth At Home Incentive Scheme COVID-19. The scheme is intended for care and welfare organizations that wish to invest in remote digital care. The scheme provides € 50,000 per request. 

The Netherlands is also pressing ahead with 5G plans during the pandemic contrary to countries such as Spain, France, and Austria, which have postponed their 5G license auctioning. The Dutch 5G licenses auction closed on April 13. National and international telco’s wishing to acquire licenses for high-frequency licenses such as 3.5GHz suitable for business and consumer applications, which will be auctioned in 2022, must report to the notary office Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn at Bezuidenhoutseweg in The Hague. To be successful, companies must also provide a bank guarantee or a sum of EUR 35.3m. KPN, VodafoneZiggo, and T-Mobile are in the race for 5G licenses, which is set to raise EUR 900m, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and valid until 2040. 

However, the Dutch telco market feels the EUR 900m proceeds to be too high, considering the current state of the market and impacts of COVID-19. Consumers are less inclined to purchase 5G equipment during an era of economic setbacks, and a shrinking telecom sector adds additional pressure to recover investments.
IT and software providers are continuing its operations in a remote capacity but are restricted to logistical delays and governmental restrictions as many countries extend lockdown measures. What remains certain is that COVID-19 will fundamentally change the speed at which digital innovation decisions are taken, fast-track the adoption of innovative technologies, and ensuring businesses are prepared for remote working en masse by investing in cloud capabilities.  

For more information on SITS developments and the impact of COVID-19, please visit teknowlogy Group’s dedicated COVID-19 insights website here