“Flatten the curve” has been one of the hot slogans trending worldwide during this COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional tools used from the times of Cholera, Spanish Flu to Ebola, and the SARS virus definitely couldn’t suffice this time. It was in this hour of need that Information Technology came to empower our fighting capability almost empirically. Having such an extensive data management system in place helped realize the extent to which technocracy can be useful to mankind.
Better to Start with Examples. Right?
A brilliant specimen can be the 1000-bedded Huoshenshan Hospital in China built under just ten days in the wake of this emergency. Digital tools like BIM (Building Information Modelling) made this short deadline possible, helping in planning and designing the initial model accurately within just 60 hours and then monitors placed to coordinate thousands of machines on-site in real-time, giving a productive output.
South Korea has also shown its prowess in information technology mechanisms during this pandemic. Initiating it’s research as early as 16th January, Seegene, the major biotech company there, came up with the test-kit in just 3 weeks. Question is how they could respond to a disease so fast? The answer isn’t so complicated. It lies at the base of the company’s research facility at Seoul that houses an AI-powered big data system that doesn’t require patient samples, instead uses the genetic identity of the virus open-sourced by WHO officials to process the detection tool: Allplex 2019-nCoV Assay. Their production has risen to 1 million per week with orders coming from Germany, Spain, Italy and all across Asia too. Seegene is currently drafting more scientists in this drive and has even offered to disclose this technology soon.
Technology Empowered Research may be the Ultimate Therapy.
The research fraternity across the world has reported several possible ways of containing the virus. The information isn’t limited by geographic or national boundaries anymore. A rapidly mutating RNA virus-like n-COVID requires a broad-spectrum approach, as seen from the continuously changing guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) itself based on the numerous tests being conducted across the globe.
The medical world is still in split as to whether the pathogen is air-borne or if using plasma from a healed COVID-19 patient can be employed to treat others. Keeping this in mind, the White House approved an initiative, CORD-19, with numerous research centres like Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Institute along with Microsoft and others, which by using natural language processing is computing through tens of thousands of research papers at an unprecedented pace. These publications grabbed more than 5,94,000 views and 183 analyses within just four days of its release. This exercise resulted in recreating the genome sequence within a month this time compared to the same practice taking several months of investigation in the case of the SARS epidemic.
Peripheral yet Smart Enough to Change the Game!
TransformativeMed, a US-based start-up that transforms electronic health records (EHR) has developed the Core COVID-19 app to enable the frontline healthcare workers to monitor the stats of the patients as hospitals around the world are experiencing a massive surge of cases. Another start-up, MDmetrix, has come up with control charts that integrate data from the New York Times to give a real-time analysis of changing death curves. Smart tools like these are becoming the friend of humanity, giving healthcare systems a whole new dimension in these tense situations.
Intense Tracking has been the Key to this Pandemic.
Much of the world’s success in containing the spread lies in the deployment of intelligent systems to track the outbreak to the level of people-to-people movement accurately. South Korea had a ‘Quarantine Information System’ in place already that recorded every possible medical detail and travel history of an incoming passenger, which helped the frontline healthcare workers provide the necessary treatment needed. Strong surveillance systems have reached our doors too. Using AI-powered software like Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot Service, the citizens can self-assess their medical health sitting at home and get their virtual reports on their smartphones.
China’s province Hangzhou came up with a Health Code app that explicitly uses this feature, giving 3-scale colour indications based on the user’s virus-related health history, whether the user is an active carrier or not. These simple screening tools prevented non-essential hospital visits, thus mitigating the risks of cross-infection. Similar developments have started to take shape in India too. The National Informatics Center (NIC) has developed the Aarogya Setu app that informs the user of the nearest virus-infected patient, helping social distancing digitally.
Technology Befriends Employees and Employers alike.
Cross-sector production is one hurdle experienced by any administration that wants to increase product sales of essential commodities in an emergency like this. Equipping the think-tanks with efficient communication systems scales down this problem. Numerous investment giants are venturing into ed-tech, delivery and B2B firms eyeing lucrative turnovers that will fuel the growth in profitable markets.
These services have proved to be the survival drug for the many service-based start-ups and companies to run in this lockdown period. While digital collaboration tools like Slack, ProofHub, Flowdock are making life more comfortable for both employees and employers, academia has smartly avoided hitting the dead-end by choosing Technology as the weapon of study. Long-distance teaching is no more a hurdle with online streaming platforms like Google Classroom, Zoom and Cisco Webex. Tencent Conference has reportedly added around 1,00,000 Cloud Hosts within just eight days between 29th January and 6th February. With the manufacturing sector getting fed seamlessly by local as well as global service providing agencies, the cross-sector problem is getting erased with ease.
Lastly, the Rise of Co-governance.
The information industry shall continue to mine out every possibility to make our living warm and bright. Governments, administrative headquarters, industrial corporations, and the people themselves are collaboratively working towards eradicating this virus, evident from the way how China, South Korea and other prosperous countries have flushed out this nuisance from their land. Thanks to the digital revolution, which, through its state-of-the-art tools, has made this world look smaller, thereby simplifying solutions through innovations.