The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has caught many by surprise and the pandemic is devastating lives across the world. The social and economic impact of the resulting lockdown is becoming evident: it will require a massive effort to bring normality back to the world.

The mobile ecosystem has been central to many of the innovations and creative solutions that have emerged in the last few weeks: not just in communications in keeping us connected but also in the essential sharing of information, entertainment, education, business and finance all now commonly managed at home from mobile devices.

The virus might have exposed the vulnerability of the human, however, the reactions from people worldwide have also showed resilience, ingenuity and astuteness. Below we share learnings and actions from MEF members that have worked in supporting businesses and consumers as well as innovations and new solutions for fighting back against the virus.

William Dudley, Head of Mobile Innovations and Evangelism, SAP Digital Interconnect

SAP Digital Interconnect recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis means that people are increasingly turning to mobile communications – including mobile messaging.  One of our products called People Connect 365 is designed help enterprises boost their resilience to various types of events such as the current pandemic.  As part of our efforts to help customers dealing with the risks and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we began running a 30-day free trial of our People Connect 365 product from April 1st – June 30th 2020.  During the trial period, customers can use the full features and capabilities of the product to remain in touch with their employees as needed through SMS and other channels. Our trial also includes free SMS messages for each employee loaded into the system (up to a maximum of 30,000 free messages).  We also pre-provisioned messaging for a number of countries so that customers could launch very quickly in order to begin production.

  

Additionally, we have noted that our global messaging traffic has shown considerable elevations above normal levels since the middle of March – both for P2P and A2P. Consequently, we put our messaging operations on high alert to make sure our networks are operating at their peak efficiency and that our business customers are using high-quality routes.

We, as SAP Digital Interconnect, recognize that now more than ever businesses need to connect with their customer. Social distancing means physical distancing and therefore requires even more virtual touch points. SAP Digital Interconnect with our CPaaS portfolio of channels and solutions continue to intelligently interconnect everyone, everything, everywhere.

Karl Kilb, CEO - Boloro Global Limited

The Internet was never designed for secure transactions and other risky activity, and Operating Systems are often subjected to malware. The coronavirus is highlighting these problems. SIM Swaps, email hacks, malware, man-in-the-middle attacks and other forms of fraud are rising dramatically. In addition, touching a public Point of Sale device, ATM keypad, or finger scanner could spread the coronavirus.

Boloro Authentication is working with MNOs in India, Africa and soon other markets to leverage the secure signalling channel of the mobile network operator, push USSD or network initiated USSD, to separate the authentication from the activity itself. With Boloro, all activities are conducted safely and securely on the personal mobile handset, eliminating sole reliance on the Internet and eliminating physical contact with a public device or screen.

  

Boloro is compatible with all mobile phones, including smartphones and feature phones, and easily deployed via APIs for local hosting and / or cloud-based hosting. Use cases include: online banking, digital payments and eCommerce, as well as the avoidance of touching public Point of Sale machines, ATM keypads, finger scanners and other public devices by putting all activities safely and securely on the personal mobile handset.

Julian Ranger, Exec Chairman & founder, digi.me

World events such as Covid-19 create an unprecedented challenge for Governments when it comes to situational awareness, tracking and understanding what is happening.  We need solutions which empower individuals and Governments to help tackle and overcome this horrendous pandemic with greater access to data without infringing on citizen’s privacy and freedoms.

Governments need data from individuals to have the national picture to help direct solutions and mitigations. But how can the Government get that data, privately and with consent, quickly and efficiently, and catering for data they may not know they need yet?

  

The solution to these issues that was recently extensively referred to in the new European Data Strategy with reference to MyData, enables more and better data to be shared amongst all participants with full privacy, security and consent. The aggregation of data occurs at the individual, and then enable them to share that data with 3rd parties through a straightforward consent process.

This is what digi.me provides, and we have proposals that we are making to the UK, Netherlands and Australia for this to be rapidly rolled out in weeks to provide a framework for the many other apps, services and data exchanges that the Government needs between it and its citizens.

Imagine if on Day 1 of this emergency the Government could have asked and received data immediately – privately and with consent. How much quicker we would have got on top of the crisis – and how much more quickly can we implement effective measures as we come out of lock-down.  And how simple it will be to share other data during the recovery phase if we need to, such as financial data for grants/other eligibility criteria.

Solutions like this exist today and can be implemented within weeks with Government backing and support. We can and should solve this data crisis now to help with solving the Covid crisis, and to provide resilience for whatever future crises occur as data will always be needed, data which is immediate, complete, private and consented.

Silvio Kutić, CEO, Infobip

Infobip understands that communicating during a crisis is essential for maintaining public confidence – especially when it entails information important to protecting public health. Infobip is in the business of delivering quality digital connected communication and we feel duty bound to assist organizations tasked with delivering critical communications at times like these.

If authorities are to engage in dialogue with the population during a crisis, they must have access to sufficiently large communications technology that has the capacity to handle potentially massive volumes of calls and contacts.  So, we have decided to make some of our technology available for this purpose and have been helping with public health information initiatives around the globe with projects in development in Africa, APAC, India, Europe and Latin American regions.

To make sure public health and government institutions’ critical messages reach people on time, we’ve decided to offer them our messaging services for free – find out more here.

  

Frank Joshi, Managing Director, Mvine Limited

I am seeing how the Covid-19 pandemic has deeply challenged the levels of readiness and connectedness in many organisations large and small. Equally it has put security postures to the test as companies struggle to adapt to a different way of working quickly enough.

From Mvine’s point of view, our management policy and infrastructure already enables business continuity even when all staff might be required to work remotely or from home. It has meant that we could assure customers that Mvine is prepared whatever adverse contingency may arise as a result of COVID-19. The entirety of Mvine’s technology and platform will continue to be fully operational as usual. This means our customers can continue to rely on a full service. But I am very mindful that is not the case with many organisations.

  

Jeff Bak, VP Product Management, Cloud Messaging Services, Syniverse

COVID-19 has resulted in a fluctuation in application-to-person (A2P) messaging traffic that we’re seeing across the board. Most notably, we have seen a large spike in government and local agency emergency notifications, an increase in mobile promotion and delivery alerts in grocery, and an increase in one-time passwords and customer service alerts from social media companies. These industries have ramped up their outbound communications rapidly from February to March 2020 as a result of the pandemic’s continued widespread activity.

Just as swiftly, Syniverse has joined its mobile network operator customers, plus the broader mobile ecosystem, in the relief efforts with rapid implementation of best-in-class public warning systems and communications services, combined with global best practices and proven industry experience in managing these types of crises, to assist carriers in quickly disseminating critical information aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of citizens in numerous large metropolitan areas across the world.

  

Dario Tumiati, Chief Development Officer, Agile Telecom

“The lower traffic in messaging has been exclusively on Retail marketing, linked to offline shops – and as these were closed they cancelled their campaigns.

However, notifications, transactions and alerts have shown a traffic uplift, that in part has compensated. For now, we can only sustain this situation.

The real challenge will be to understand the future of SMS messaging channel, after the markets will experience .”

 

Surash Patel, GM Messaging & VP, RealNetworks

“With the advanced analytics capabilities of our Kontxt platform we had the opportunity to observe the effect of the Covid-19 emergency on our partners’ networks and on the mobile messaging industry in general during the last few weeks in the USA.

There has been a clear increase in total volumes with, in some instances, up to 40% increase in various cases throughout March and we observed some interesting trends in terms of the composition of this traffic:

  • We have seen the traffic mix shifting from marketing and promotional campaigns toward public health messages and notifications from companies, and health providers to their employees and customers.
  • Health providers, religious organisations and companies have boosted their usage of A2P SMS to inform the public about changes in their services.
  • Unfortunately, bad actors have been trying to use Covid-19 as a pretext for Fraud and Smishing: Kontxt detected and blocked a growing number of fraud messages promising free devices or subscriptions in order to cope with the Covid-19 lockdowns

  

Looking forward, we anticipate the potential for further abuse as fraudsters and scammers take advantage of governmental financial aid and deferred tax filings notifications in order to construct new campaigns to exploit the vulnerable and worried population.”

Sonia Sifo, Marketing & Communication Solutions Manager, Sparkle

“Sparkle is committed to play its part in fighting the current healthcare crisis: in this context, A2P SMS is also a means to share a wishful “Everything will be alright” with all our partners, customers and suppliers worldwide.

We recommend to use this tool for being closer to all the stakeholders, including employees, remembering that the SMS is able to reach anyone, anywhere.”

  

Dario Calogero, Chief Executive Officer, Kaleyra

“As a trusted multi-channel CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service), Kaleyra has always been particularly focused on transactional notifications via APIs. Even if Europe remains an important part of our revenues, thanks to a combined effect of the business verticals of our customers (online banking, healthcare and government more than marketing, retail and transportation) and the kind of services that our platform provides, we didn’t experience a substantial negative effect on our overall business, even if it is a bit early to evaluate all the potential impacts.

In the interim, we foresee an acceleration in the digital transformation of many industries, resulting in a positive impact on CPaaS volumes. Our heart goes out to all the companies and families around the world that are suffering in these difficult times. We are willing to help every institution that can benefit from our services, for free, as we recently did for Croce Rossa Italiana (Italian Red Cross) by enabling an SMS number for doctors and nurses to apply for help.” – Find out more about our COVID-19 reponse here.

  

Anurag Aggarwal, Director - Messaging Services, Tata Communications Limited

“From an Indian perspective, we’ve started seeing sporadic cases of “struggle for bandwidth” i.e. with families staying indoor mostly, there is a tremendous consumption of existing internet bandwidth. This is leading to slower internet speeds across the country… I’m personally experiencing this and I’m sure it’s a similar situation across other countries as well, especially the developing ones.

Given the lockdown situation in most places, there are cases whereby internet-access has actually got restricted for some, because no service staff from the service-provider is available to fix the optical fibre disruptions etc. in every case that’s occurring.

Given the above two points, services such as SMS which are not data-dependant, at least for last-mile delivery, come into play and are a great support in delivering time-critical traffic to the end recipients. For brands using the MO (P2A) services as well, it’s another low-data-dependency technique to hear back from their customers for critical feedback.”

  

If you would like to contribute a comment to this article contact us at editorial@mefmobile.org or leave your thoughts in the replies below.

2 Comments

  • The Covid-19 pandemic virus is creating new challenges for the all industry and in particular for the SME, creating hesitations and uncertainty for the acceleration of the digital transformation. However, this will create new opportunities in the telco and in the vertical industry. The key challenges to address are on monetization and selection of right technology. ABC Solutions Consultancy.

  • Dario says:

    Hello Rodolfo.
    I think you bring up two interesting points.
    First, across MEF members there are few ideas/project of support (read free service, intro and trials) and education (explaining how and where to use the services. I think MEF should spend more time highlighting these. You give us more ammunition to come back to the issue of how to support SME.

    The digital transformation for Telco is still under way. Despite the progress done by some, the set of cultural changes required have not really kicked in. I think that the recent shock should be an interesting catalyst to push for a fundamental review of what the Communication Service Provider of the future should look like. We are open to suggestion for this debate.

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