Cisco to acquire Socio Labs

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Cisco has recently announced their intention to acquire Socio Labs, a US-based event technology platform – the latest in a series of acquisitions. Cisco’s Webex Events provides meeting, webinar and webcast capabilities, including polling, Q&A, chat and real-time translation. This acquisition will allow Webex Events to cater to large-scale, hybrid events and conferences. Solution capabilities will include live streaming, sponsorship, networking, and advanced analytics – including for pre-event and post-event activities.  

Collaboration Platforms are Here to Stay

2020 was the year video conferencing and collaboration finally became mainstream. With the exponential rise of remote and hybrid working, the investments in collaboration technologies has increased – and Ecosystm research shows that the trend is continuing well into 2021.


Experience Economy

The other aspect that has been impacted by the pandemic is the Events business. With social distancing regulations, Events and Marketing teams are being challenged in their outreach and go-to-market initiatives. Even when countries allow in-person events, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to attend events. With most organisations allowing remote working many attendees are away from the CBD/ commercial areas and are reluctant to commute to attend events. This has seen the rise of a hybrid event model that caters to both in-person and virtual attendees.

While some countries are beginning to bring back in-person events, they will remain largely virtual. Event organisers will have to cater for those who are happy to attend in-person and those who want to access the event virtually. Providing a better experience for hybrid events, will require richer features using video and collaboration platforms to allow live streaming, chat, feedback, analytics – to gauge audience engagement – polling and other interesting ways to retain audience attention. Additionally, it will be important for these platforms to facilitate sponsorship, registrations and even ticketing capabilities directly from within the platform. These new dimensions to step up engagements for both virtual and in-person events have become necessary for the world we are living in. 

Cisco Strengthening Collaboration Capabilities

Cisco is enhancing the virtual/hybrid meeting and events experience they provide and this has been evident from their recent acquisitions. They clearly see the need to enhance audience participation and engagement from pure static video and collaboration environments. Socio Labs’ business accelerated during the pandemic and they built a platform that offers a deeper engagement with the audience. Their customers include Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo and Hyundai.

Last year Cisco acquired BabbleLabs, a noise removal technology provider and the product has been integrated into their Webex platform, to improve the audio experience. Earlier this month Cisco also completed their acquisition of Slido. This means that Webex users can now leverage Slido’s capability of gathering real-time audience feedback, rather than just asking questions via text or chat. The solution can also enhance the learning experience during team training sessions and offers built-in analytics to gauge audience participation and where the gaps are. These acquisitions are an indication that Cisco is serious about their market presence in the video and collaboration space – and is keen on making a mark in the Events market.  


Ecosystm Snapshot
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Adding a Second Screen Improves Productivity for Samsung DeX Users

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In March I published an analysis of Samsung DeX – which is a desktop environment which many businesses could benefit from deploying to specific teams, roles or employees. During my research, I found that one of the shortcomings is the lack of native support for dual screens. I know that many information workers in particular use dual-screen setups – and going back to a single screen feels highly unproductive!

Knowing this, a contact at Samsung pointed me to a company that has developed a dual-screen capability for a virtual desktop environment running on DeX – so I jumped at the opportunity to trial the environment in my own dual screen setup.

The product is called NetConnect – and is sold by VOIP. It is actually a Branch Of One style solution, which allows employees to access enterprise resources on any device. But one of its unique features is the ability to run a dual screen virtual desktop environment.

NetConnect’s Dual Screen Capabilities – An Analysis

DeX users that run the NetConnect app can extend the desktop to a second, internet connected monitor or screen. The key point here is “internet connected” – the screen is deployed across the internet – not across cables from the phone. This means any tablet, laptop or connected screen can be used as the second screen for the Windows virtual desktop running through NetConnect. In my particular demo environment, the software (both NetConnect and the Windows server) was running in a data centre in Singapore – but the company (VOIP) sells the solution to organisations to run in their own data centre environment.

The overall experience is seamless. The fact that one screen is running on a server in Singapore and being sent across the internet to my Samsung phone, and the other screen is running in Singapore and being sent across the internet to a completely different device is remarkable. The mouse moves across screens as if the desktop is running locally. While my demo environment was limited to web and a few desktop applications, I often found myself astonished that this entire environment was being driven by a smartphone (and a lot of clever technology behind the scenes!). Suddenly the limitations of only having a single screen for DeX disappeared – I now could run one application on my first screen and another on my second screen – and continue working, without the need to endlessly alt-tab between applications and screens.

This is a picture of my dual screen setup, running a virtual desktop across two screens using NetConnect on a Samsung phone running DeX (the photo was taken with the phone that was running DeX!). The phone is connected wirelessly to the left monitor and the right monitor is actually a browser tab in full screen with the content driven from a NetConnect environment in Singapore.

There are some limitations – video streaming is not very smooth, and connected devices (cameras etc. for Zoom or Teams calls) are not recognised. These features are on the roadmap, but not available today. But the NetConnect solution really does open DeX up to a whole new community of users. Some of the VOIP employees I met at their office don’t have a laptop on their desk or a desktop underneath it – they are running their entire work environment from their Samsung phone!

And being a Branch of One solution, NetConnect also brings with it inherent security benefits – of  not ever taking company data out of the data centre, reducing threats from viruses and malware that would normally run on the end-user computing device and others. It also improves the manageability of the desktop environment and makes it simple to deploy to users. Branch of One is about bringing all of the inherent benefits and capabilities that an office or branch would have and enabling a single user to get this power and security.

NetConnect is more than a dual screen solution – so working out which comes first is the interesting challenge. If your business is looking to run a solution like NetConnect, it is worth your while examining the opportunity to use DeX to extend full, dual screen desktop solutions to your employees. And if you are a business running DeX, NetConnect could open opportunities to extend DeX to more employees, roles or teams than originally planned.


Checkout Tim’s previous insight where he provides a detailed analysis on whether Samsung DeX is suitable for your employees. He bases his insights from using Samsung DeX as his primary desktop environment over the past 4 weeks.

Can Samsung DeX Empower your Employees
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Salesforce Backs BetterUp

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BetterUp, a mobile-based professional learning and wellness platform that connects employees with career experts recently raised USD 125 million Series D funding backed by Salesforce Ventures, in partnership with ICONIQ Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Threshold Ventures, and Sapphire Ventures among others, bringing the company’s valuation to USD 1.73 billion. Previously in 2012, the company had raised USD 43 million in venture capital funding with an additional Series B funding of USD 30 million in March 2018. The BetterUp platform combines behavioural science, AI, and human interaction to enhance employees’ personal and professional well-being. Recently, the company also revealed two new products – Identify AI, to help organisations determine the right people to invest in and the appropriate coaching needed through the use of AI; and Coaching Cloud for customised training for frontline, professional, and executive employees.

This announcement comes on the back of several wins for BetterUp. To boost employee performance and organisational growth NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partnered with BetterUp to support new ways of coaching and preparing a workforce for change. The world’s largest brewer, AB InBev has partnered with BetterUp to strengthen diversity and inclusion through BetterUp’s coaching platform.

The Need to Improve Employee Experience

The pandemic changed the working arrangement of millions of employees and industries across the globe who are now working remotely or in a hybrid environment.

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Audrey William says, “Driving better employee experience (EX) should take centre stage this year with enterprises putting employees at the centre of all initiatives. We will see EX platforms get integrated further and deeper into workplace collaboration and HR applications. In the last 12 months, we have seen apps monitoring wellness and sleep, training and coaching, meditation, employee motivation, and so on sit within larger collaboration platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco and others.”

While the primary focus has been on optimising the work environment, it is time for organisations to start focusing on employee well-being. Ecosystm research shows that organisations implemented several measures to empower a remote workforce last year when the pandemic hit. But there was not enough focus on employee well-being (Figure 1).

Organisational measures to enable remote working

William says, “A hybrid work environment may have negative impact on your employees. You may face issues such as longer working hours, employee burnout, lesser social engagements and connection, loneliness – and mental and emotional issues and depression”.

“Organisations that place an emphasis on the employees will see their revenues grow and also see less attrition. The more you invest in your people, the more you will get back in return. It is as simple as that! You can see that now in some organisations where employees are being given more flexibility, employers are not dictating how they should work, diversity and inclusion efforts have become mainstream, and efforts are being made to make employees feel like they belong.”

William adds, “However, Ecosystm research finds that organisations have gone back to putting customers and business growth first – losing focus on their employees. Only 27% of organisations globally say that they have improving employee experience as a key business priority in 2021. It is time for this culture and mindset to change. And solutions such as BetterUp can make a difference.”


Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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Future of Talent – Key Dimensions

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Organisations are finding that the ways to do work and conduct business are evolving rapidly. It is evident that we cannot use the perspectives from the past as a guide to the future. As a consequence both leaders and employees are discovering and adapting both their work and their expectations from it. In general, while job security concerns still command a big mindshare, the simpler productivity measures are evolving to more nuanced wellness measures. This puts demands on the CHRO and the leadership team to think about company, customer and people strategy as one holistic way of working and doing business.

Organisations will have to re-think their people and technology to evolve their Future of Work policies and strategise their Future of Talent. There are multiple dimensions that will require attention.

Hybrid is Becoming Mainstream  

It is clear that hybrid workplaces are here to stay. Ecosystm research finds that in 2021 BFSI organisations will use more collaboration tools and platforms, and virtual meetings (Figure 1). Nearly 40% expect more employees to work from home, but only about a quarter of organisations are looking to reduce their physical workspaces. Organisations will give more choice to employees in the location of their work – and employees will choose to work from where they are more productive. The Hybrid model will be more mainstream than it has been in the last few months.

Companies are coming to terms with the fact that there is no single answer to operating in the new world. Experimentation and learnings are continuously captured to create the right workforce and workplace model that works best. Agility both in terms of being able to undersand the market as well as quickly adapt is becoming quite important. Thus being able to use different models and ways of working at the same time is the new norm.

Technology and Talent are Core

Talent and tech are the two core pillars that companies need to look at to be successful against their competition. It is becoming imperative to create synergy between the two to deliver a superior value proposition to customers. Companies that are able to bring the customer and employee experience journeys together will be able to create better value. HR tech stacks need to evolve to be more deliberate in the way they link the employee experience, customer experience, and the culture of the organisation. That’s how the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) comes to life on a day-to-day basis to the employers. With evolving work models, the tech stack is a key EVP pillar.

Governments will also need to partner with industry to make such talent available. Singapore is rolling out a new “Tech.Pass” to support the entry of up to 500 proven founders, leaders and experts from top tech companies into Singapore. Its an extension of the Tech@SG program launched in 2019, to provide fast-growing companies greater assurance and access to the talent they need. The EDB will administer the pass, supported by the Ministry of Manpower.

Attracting the Right Talent

Talent has always been difficult to find. Even with globalisation, significant investment of time and resources is needed to find and relocate talent to the right geography. In many instances this was not possible given the preferences of the candidates and/or the hiring managers. COVID-19 has changed this drastically. Remote working and distributed teams have become acceptable. With limitations on immigration and travel for work, there is a lot more openness to finding and hiring talent from outside the traditional talent pool.

However it is not as simple as it seems. The cost per applicant (CPA) – the cost to convert a job seeker to a job applicant – had been averaging US$11-12 throughout 2019 according to recruiting benchmark data from programmatic recruitment advertising provider, Appcast. But, the impact of COVID-19 saw the CPA reach US$19 in June – a 60% increase. I expect that finding right talent is going to be a “needle in a haystack” issue. But this is only one side of the coin – the other aspect is that the talent profile needed to be successful in roles that are all remote or hybrid is also significantly different from what it was before. Companies need to pay special attention to what kind of people they would like to hire in these new roles. Without this due consideration it is very likely that there would be difficulty in on-boarding and making these new hires successful within the organisation.

Automation Augmentation and Skills

The pace at which companies are choosing to automate or apply AI is increasing. This is changing the work patterns and job requirements for many roles within the industry. According to the BCG China AI study on the financial sector 23% of the roles will be replaced by AI by 2027. The roles that will not be replaced will need a higher degree of soft skills, critical thinking and creativity. However, automation is not the endgame. Firms that go ahead with automation without considering the implications on the business process, and the skills and roles it impacts will end up disrupting the business and customer experience. Firms will have to really design their customer journeys, their business processes along with roles and capabilities needed. Job redesign and reskilling will be key to ensuring a great customer experience

Analytics is Inadequate Without the Right Culture

Data-driven decision-making as well as modelling is known to add value to business. We have great examples of analytics and data modelling being used successfully in Attrition, Recruitment, Talent Analytics, Engagement and Employee Experience. The next evolution is already underway with advanced analytics, sentiment analysis, organisation network analysis and natural language processing (NLP) being used to draw better insights and make people strategies predictive. Being able to use effective data models to predict and and draw insights will be a key success factor for leadership teams. Data and bots do not drive engagement and alignment to purpose – leaders do. Working to promote transparency of data insights and decisions, for faster response, to champion diversity, and give everyone a voice through inclusion will lead to better co-creation, faster innovation and an overall market agility.  

Creating a Synergy

We are seeing a number of resets to what we used to know, believe and think about the ways of working. It is a good time to rethink what we believe about the customer, business talent and tech. Just like customer experience is not just about good sales skills or customer service – the employee experience and role of Talent is also evolving rapidly. As companies experiment with work models, technology and work environment, there will a need to constantly recalibrate business models, job roles, job technology and skills. With this will come the challenge of melding the pieces together within the context of the entire business without falling into the trap of siloed thinking. Only by bringing together businesses processes, talent, capability evolution, culture and digital platforms together as one coherent ecosystem can firms create a winning formula to create a competitive edge.


Singapore FinTech Festival 2020: Talent Summit

For more insights, attend the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020: Infrastructure Summit which will cover topics on Founders success and failure stories, pandemic impact on founders and talent development, upskilling and reskilling for the future of work.

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Blended Workforce – Changing Mindset in Asia Pacific

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In this blog, our guest author Chandru Pingali talks about the potential benefits of the Blended working model and the impact it will have on FinTech and financial services organisations. “FinTech innovation and performance is here to stay and thrive. It needs to be backed by a well-oiled machine to support implementation of a blended workforce plan to institutionalise and scale.” 

Chandru Pingali, Founder and MD, Icube Consortium

When under pressure to reduce costs and survive, we reimagine everything we do to build resilience and thrive. Never before have the buzzwords frugality, prudence and agility gained as much prominence not just in one country or industry, but across global economies simultaneously (a phenomenon not seen since the Great Depression). And these words have sliced through the employment opportunities ruthlessly, leaving an abundance of talent to be gainfully employed differently. 

So, is the freelance economy surging? Statistics appear to say yes. In 2018, freelancers had contributed almost USD 1.40 trillion to the US economy; 162 million freelancers work across US and EU-15. So, who are these people? Why is blended workforce new or relevant for the Asia Pacific? Why is it gaining more prominence now? How can enterprises create and implement a blended workforce strategy to reduce costs more permanently, while running and scaling businesses? What does the Future of Work and workforce mean? How can FinTech enterprises successfully implement a blended workforce strategy?

Let us take Singapore as an example. With 1000+ FinTech firms and increasing investments, the “smart financial centre” initiative of Singapore is a huge success story, recognised globally. To sustain this, apart from innovation and technology, the main ingredient is consistent availability of talent as the demand for expertise in technology and financial services increases, while the supply is inconsistent, uncurated and fragmented. Recent data from the Singapore government job portals reveal that there are several hundred jobs at any point in time posted by FinTech companies that are open for months! This invariably slows down the ability to build businesses, innovate or scale. Interestingly, while the local talent for technology and BFSI may be limited in Singapore, the crisis this year presented a significant opportunity to reimagine the Future of Work and workforce. While efforts should continue to upskill and reskill local talent, it is now possible to create dedicated local and cross-border talent hubs to work part-time, fulltime-short term with the option of working physically or remotely. We expect the plug and play of freelance management experts and expertise to cost 25-30% less to an enterprise, keeps costs flexible and dramatically shortens time to “hire and deploy” from an average of 120 days to 15 days.  

The Three Level of Freelancers

Gigs and Generations – Conceptual Clarity of Who We Need

Culturally, the US and Europe are more accepting of freelancing as full-time careers compared to the Asia Pacific. It is predicted that by 2027 the majority of the workforce in the US will be freelancers overtaking traditional employment. The buzz in the Asia Pacific has just started with both employers and employable talent accepting a new reality – learning to run businesses with a blended workforce, starting at the top of the pyramid. Particularly, since the ratio of new jobs to lost jobs is skewed in the wrong direction.  

Power of Blended Workforce

A blended workforce is a combination of permanent, part-time, full time-short term and turnkey practitioners, working as a single collaborative workforce. It is built around business activity clusters – Strategy, Implementation and Institutionalisation, applied to create a plan for core and non-core workforce to drive business. 

A creative estimation of how a blended workforce gets distributed across the three business clusters is depicted below (Figure 2). What is important here is to recognise that the ratio of permanent to flexible workforce has to start at 10-15% across different levels. Enterprises will gain the most on cost optimisation when they focus on the management layer to go blended. Not an easy change to drive but then change is often driven by some tough calls and some low hanging fruits to build a sustainable cost model.  

How a blended workforce gets distributed

Developing & Implementing a Blended Workforce Strategy: What to Consider

Fix the core and flex the non-core should be the mantra

  • Identify roles by each business and function 
  • Segregate core and non-core roles by job profiles
  • Classify them into buckets of permanent full time, permanent part time, cyclical, and freelance on demand, based on:  
    • Time demand for the roles
    • Importance to business goals
    • Criticality to daily business output
    • Criticality to daily or weekly business continuity
  • Set up a process to engage and create a blended workforce strategy
  • Implement the plan with a blend of a common self-service platform and a central client service team to source, engage and deploy workforces  
steps to create a workforce plan

Once the process review is completed, the organisation structures will be finalised. Creation of a strategy and the process are the easier parts. A disciplined fulfilment of the plan is critical to success. So, is this the new normal? Pretty much yes, if organisations need to optimise costs and be agile to reduce or scale with freelance experts and shared talent pools. 

The Potential Benefits of a Blended Workforce

A Blended Workforce will help reduce your talent scarcity gap, while providing thousands of work opportunities to locals who are freelance experts. So, what are these benefits that can make you sleep better at night better?

  • Cost optimisation. Freelance experts do not need the fully loaded costs. They can work remotely or physically and do not need investment in regular training, insurance, or other related benefits.
  • Targeted purpose-hire for short term. With deliverables specified upfront, measurable, results focused and tracked for closure.
  • Job Sharing. Two or may be three, for the prize of one! Jobs can be dismantled to tasks or activity clusters to hire more than one expert in place of a full-time role. Enables razor sharp focus on sourcing for expertise, increases employment opportunities and accelerates productivity.
  • Boundaryless with an opportunity to find cross-border talent pools to work on-demand, remotely. It cuts both ways- Singaporean talent finding work opportunities outside the country whilst the best talent from other countries made available to grow Singapore’s economy.
  • Speed of hire is dramatically reduced (we have several client cases, with a reduction from an average of 120 days to 15 days, to clients’ delight!) 
  • Reduced infrastructure costs because the workforce works remotely or at best part-time physically. Easy to implement with hot desking, if needed but enables permanent cost reduction.
  • Builds resilience by staying agile and nimble in the cost line, with an ability to scale up or down rapidly based on business needs.

How Open is the Financial Services Industry to Blended Workforce and Future of Work?

SolvecubeHR conducted a recent survey with CXOs across 22 countries, predominantly focused on the Asia Pacific region. Some key findings for the financial services industry are:

BFSI opening up to the future of work

In summary, a blended workforce is the Future of Work. Asia Pacific will see a massive shift in its mindset from “jobs to work opportunities”. Employers and talent pools will embrace new ways of working to remain agile and prudent. The power of aggregation, curation, and collaboration by leveraging an AI matchmaking platform, backed by creation of shared talent pools, will be a game changer. 

FinTech innovation and performance is here to stay and thrive. It needs to be backed by a well-oiled machine to support implementation of a blended workforce plan to institutionalise and scale. 

We can build technologies to disintermediate people dependency, but we cannot take humans out of the human capital needed to build these technologies.  

About iCube: iCube Consortium is a Singapore based, Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions firm, with an award-winning AI platform to source and manage freelance management experts and execute turnkey assignments in Asia and Middle East


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For more insights, attend the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020: Infrastructure Summit which will cover topics on Founders success and failure stories, pandemic impact on founders and talent development, upskilling and reskilling for the future of work.

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Key Considerations in Transitioning to a Hybrid Workplace

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5/5 (2) The past 3-4 months have seen technology leaders move mountains to support their newly remote employees and 100% digital customers. Over 40% of businesses in the Asia Pacific didn’t formally support remote working – so these companies have made massive changes in support of their employees. You have rolled out new hardware, new data protection and compliance policies, new security measures, collaboration software and VPNs. You have also strengthened the IT Helpdesk to better support remote employees and digital customer processes. And you are embracing the public cloud to offer new services and capabilities to customers and staff. The pace of change has been breathtaking – and things are not slowing down.This chart shows what businesses in Asia Pacific are doing to support remote working

Many countries or economies are now moving to a hybrid working arrangement. This ISN’T about “going back to the way things were”. Hybrid working is really an important step on the road to the Digital Workplace – which enables access to the tools, data and processes that employees need to get their job done regardless of location or device.

Components of a digital workplace

Many businesses claim that productivity has improved now that employees are working from home – some have even measured it and can prove it. We have to ensure that the move back to the office doesn’t negatively impact productivity. To drive continued productivity with hybrid working arrangements, consider:

  • How will video calls work with employees in the office and at home? If employees in the office are docking their laptops, they immediately lose access to the camera. If they have monitors on their desk, they might not even be able to work with the laptop open. If they are in an open-plan office, the regular video calls might be distracting.
  • What is the role of meeting rooms in the hybrid workplace? With social distancing an expectation in many countries today, the role of meeting rooms has changed. They will cater for fewer employees, and there is a growing need for them to be video-enabled.
  • How do you manage hybrid meetings – where maybe 3-5 employees are on a single camera? How do you ensure every voice has equal weight – and that the right employees have their fair share of voice on the calls.
  • How do you support employees who are moving between locations? You must focus on self-help services and automating as much of your Service Desk capabilities as possible.
  • How can IT support social distancing in the office? Many companies are scaling back their hot desk environments to ensure there are fewer shared working environments.
  • How will the changing location of employees impact business processes? Many of your processes were designed assuming employees were on site. You then redesigned many of them to assume they were not. Do you need to rethink them again?
  • Does the application strategy work for all employees? There has been an increase in employees accessing applications from mobile devices – sometimes that was because it was a better experience, but too often it was because it was the only option. Is it time to rethink access and interfaces to make them relevant for all users?
  • How do you keep employees and their data secure? Employees might move between secure and unsecured networks, work and home devices, on-premise and cloud applications. How do you keep them secure, backed up and synchronised – regardless of their device or location?

The move to hybrid working might not be a smooth one. The last thing you want to deliver is a poorer experience at one location versus the other, so you have work ahead in keeping your employees productive and secure – and hopefully, you’ll also move further down the path towards a Digital Workplace that can enable and empower all of your employees.

 


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Ecosystm COVID-19 Research Data

For more information on Ecosystm’s “Digital Priorities in the New Normal”, please contact us at info@ecosystm360.com


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