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The year that was: Technology PR during COVID

So how has 2021 started for everyone- or do we dare ask?! We normally post our review of the previous year in the first week of January but we got sidetracked with lots of planning meetings and no shortage of exciting client announcements to kick start the new year. We’ve also been interviewing lots of great people for our growing team of technology PR and content specialists at Comit and we’ll have good news to share on that front soon.

I think we can all agree that 2020 was an unprecedented and most unusual year. We won’t dwell on the huge hardships that so many people and businesses faced but it’s important to acknowledge it and wish for a brighter future for all. We know we’re not out of the woods yet but there is real hope, particularly as the vaccination roll-out speeds up.

The technology sector has more than played its part too as it reacted with incredible speed and innovation to accelerate the availability of digital services to help people live, shop, work, learn and even socialise together.  It’s hard to imagine how much more isolated we would be if this virus struck even a decade ago.

At Comit, we witnessed first-hand the agility and inventiveness of global and Irish technology providers as they launched highly relevant services to help Irish private and public sector organisations on their digital transformation journeys. In turn, we were delighted to provide our tech PR expertise and support for so many clients so that they could tell and share their stories.

Rising to the restrictions

PayPal was quick to innovate so that businesses and consumers alike could shop safely and conveniently. While their digital payments platform allowed more and more people to pay for goods and services online, they also launched a QR code payments service so that smaller retailers across Ireland could offer touch-free payments for customers. PayPal also stepped up to the mark for Irish charities as it launched an online donation service called PayPal Giving Fund, which gives 100% of all funds raised directly to each charity – a much-needed service in these challenging times for fundraising.

Digital transformation specialists, Expleo, reacted to the restrictions without hesitation when they immediately offered their skills to help with a new and essential public service.  Through quality assurance and software testing, the company was responsible for ensuring that the COVID Tracker app was user-friendly, fast, and reliable, which involved testing it to be able to handle one million downloads in an hour. Furthermore, they launched and delivered much needed free consultancy services for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Securing seamless remote operations

For most businesses, the most immediate challenge of the lockdowns was enabling seamless and secure remote working for their employees. Fortunately, the specialist CWSI was able to support businesses with remote working assessment tools and mobility solutions. The company also launched its free Safety Instructions app, to help businesses ensure that their employees could safely return to the workplace in line with Government protocols.

Education and skills training moved quickly and seamlessly online for many businesses and course providers thanks to the help of Irish EdTech leader, Olive Group, which launched My Virtual Tutor in late March to allow for essential remote staff and student learning, upskilling and regulatory compliance. It also launched an online training course, Being There, to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to support colleagues, friends and family who may be experiencing emotional distress during these difficult times.

Vital services during COVID

On a global and local level, GIS specialists Esri played an important role in helping health officials, governments and private-sector organisations manage the coronavirus pandemic through its digital mapping platform, as well as helping to keep the public informed about the virus. In Ireland, its software and expertise delivered an integrated platform the Government of Ireland’s mapping portal GeoHive, which provides people across Ireland with accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases in their locality.

Underpinning all of these vital innovative technical services are the digital service providers that ensure all of these vital personal and business online applications are instantly available at all times, despite the huge increases in data needed. The world’s largest data centre and colocation infrastructure provider, Equinix released the latest volume of its Global Interconnection Index which highlighted some of the technological impacts of Covid 19, including the fact that two-thirds of businesses are experiencing an increase in bandwidth requirements. Leading Irish broadband provider, Pure Telecom, also experienced a 30% increase in demand for its services since the pandemic began. This was revealed when we announced Pure’s €10m deal with BT Ireland which provides it with access to SIRO's nationwide high-speed fibre broadband network., to the benefit of residential and business customers alike.

In addition to connectivity, security has never been more important, particularly as remote working became ubiquitous last March. In response, Paradyn accelerated the launch of its new network and security operations centre to help customers identify and manage security incidents in real-time. The Paradyn TotalView Operations Centre offers business a complete view of their infrastructure and the cyber threat landscape as they face a significant increase in COVID-19 related malicious threats.

Not beaten by lockdown

Although people haven’t been able to travel overseas and/or gather together for most of the past year, that didn’t stop innovative companies such as Comtrade Digital Services. Always prepared to go above and beyond to share engaging and relevant content, it hosted its annual Quest for Quality Conference for the first time online. Bringing together thought leaders in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quality Assurance (QA), along with tech enthusiasts and those working in the sector, the two-day conference was a huge success.

Speaking of successes, many of our clients were awarded significant industry and vendor awards in 2020. DataSolutions was awarded Distributor of the Year for Northern Europe by Citrix at its 2020 Summit. This came hot on the heels of their record growth announcement earlier in the year.

Leading technology provider, Datapac, achieved Gold ProPartner status from Veeam, the global leader in backup solutions that deliver cloud data management.

Architects of change, Logicalis Ireland expanded its expertise even further this year with the Microsoft Azure Managed Services Provider status – one of only 65 firms across the globe to receive the accreditation. The organisation also added the 2020 IBM Business Unit Excellence Award for Hybrid Data Management to its ever-expanding collection of titles.

Prosperity during the pandemic

The last year saw no shortage of strategic acquisitions and mergers, with a number of our clients involved. Granite Digital further strengthened its portfolio this year through the acquisition of digital and creative marketing agency Connector.

Novi was acquired in July last year by Ireland’s fastest-growing end-to-end communications provider Welltel, strengthening the service offering for both of the companies’ existing clients. 2020 also saw the coming together of Irish business software companies.

Envisage and OSSM under The Noledge Group brand, with the group recently launching a new website to bring together both companies online, and offer a very compelling service to help their customers to thrive.

There was an abundance of other exciting developments for our clients over the past year. Diaceutics launched its industry-transforming diagnostic network for precision medicine. Designed to solve global cancer testing issues, DXRX – The Diagnostic Network accelerates the end-to-end development of precision medicine diagnostics, enabling industry-wide collaboration among key stakeholders and helping patients get the treatment they deserve.

Looking to the future

Location Intelligence provider, Gamma made a staggering number of headlines when it leveraged the insights provided by its risk assessment platform, Perilfinder, to reveal that more than 70,000 Irish addresses will be impacted by coastal flooding as a result of climate change by 2050. The analysis showed that Dublin, Louth and Clare would be the most affected counties.

In September, the technology partner to the credit union sector, Wellington IT, launched the country’s first full-service credit union banking app. The revolutionary software grants members full access to every single service with the swipe of a thumb.

With technology and innovation at the heart of so many important developments in 2020, it’s reassuring to see that more investment is being raised to safeguard and accelerate the next generation of successful Irish companies. Central to this is HBAN (Halo Business Angel Network) who continue to go from strength-to-strength, providing fertile ground for start-ups to thrive with access to early-stage funding from individual angel investors and syndicates. Be sure to register for the HBAN virtual conference on 11th February that will showcase 2021 angel investment opportunities.

So with that eye to the future, we believe there are many reasons to be optimistic for the Irish technology sector in 2021. Most importantly, we hope that everybody we know remains safe and healthy.  In the words of the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney: “If we winter this out, we can summer anywhere.”

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