The Outbreak of Covid-19 globally will remain one of the major events that shaped the 21st century and thus it is the hope and desire of everyone to see humanity triumph once again over a common adversary. Many countries around the globe are resorting to diverse ways to combat the virus and one common denominator that runs across is the use of digital technologies to not only control the spread but also fight infections.
In Ghana, favorable ICT policies are being put in place to improve livelihoods as well as provide the country with much needed tools to combat the virus. The governments’ efforts to ensure uninterrupted connectivity due to the heavy dependence on internet during the lockdown, led to the offering of temporary spectrum to some Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), while waiving off some charges on mobile money transactions was also put in place.
These instances though very commendable, also demonstrate the enormous role that ICT can play in preventing, controlling and treating diseases like the COVID-19. Unearthing the enormous potentials of technology in saving lives, in terms of disease treatment, ICT technologies can improve the efficiency and accuracy of identification, diagnosis, and treatment.
While the use of AI-assisted CT scans shortens the diagnosis time, in the area of controlling epidemics, intelligent robotics and AI robots are used to play an intermediary role, safeguarding the person from possible infection. Additionally, robotics and AI are being used to carry out patient screenings at the entrance of hospitals. AI powered chatbots are being used to undertake basic assessment of patients through basic interactions while a thermal camera installed will detect their temperature, therefore carrying out an effective Covid-19 assessment.
Robust cloud infrastructure capable of processing big data also remains a key tool in managing and combating pandemics. The timely collection and transmission of information is the basis for implementing adjustments resulting from case management and pattern, proper classification, recovery analysis and finally developing a prudent exit mechanism of the epidemic. This will also serve as the basis to derive the infection map for epidemics and enable authorities to better inform the general public on the real situation, design a better suited public education system on prevention, control in some cases provide evidence to curb stigmatization all based on the situation on the ground.
Digital Technology Ensures Minimum Economic Impact
The new COVID-19 epidemic has a profound impact on the world’s economy. According to the April 14th IMF forecast, the global GDP growth rate will drop to -3.0% in 2020. The epidemic has brought different challenges and opportunities to various industries, and these changes may profoundly affect the industry’s future development trends and competitive landscape.
The internet is the lifeline of the economy during epidemic. With the emergence of new ways of living such as working from home, social distancing and self-isolation, public services such as education, medical care and pension payment among others are offered remotely and ICT remain the core facilitator in ensuring that people can enjoy these services. Additionally, basic everyday interactions, business communication and transactions with regards to business and lifestyle are done remotely. Most people resort to online shopping, mobile money transactions, video conferencing and meetings to enable them go about their daily life and economic activities.
All around the world this trend is being experienced due to lockdowns and restrictions in movement. These changes require fast network deployment, expansion and optimization. The heavy dependence on online activities also necessitates a robust security system to prevent network breaches as well as prevent cyber criminals from taking advantage of users.
A stable network remains crucial for economic activities during pandemic and a robust national infrastructure, favorable policies and investment by carrier networks continue to remain crucial for sustaining economies during an epidemic.
Strategic ICT Investment Ensures Adequate Preparations against Epidemics
As the world continue to battle the COVID-19 epidemic, it is important to understand, appreciate and leverage on the great weapon we have in ICT to accelerate humanity’s victory over the virus and better prepare us to effectively manage or even prevent any future outbreaks.
The strategic upgrade of the Healthcare system through digitalization to achieve smart medical system will be key in tackling for major public health crisis. Likewise, the establishment of a nationwide medical network and digital hospitals as well as adoption of technologies such as AI diagnosis, comprehensive utilization of medical resources, and improvement of medical standards are also relevant areas policy makers need to focus on.
Investments in modern education methods such as distance education, interactive classrooms, and university campus networks, and make full use of digital technology to achieve comprehensive coverage of high-quality educational resources remains crucial to prepare any country for such outbreaks.
The ITU has also said that the COVID-19 crisis we are going through right now shows how vital information and communication technology (ICT) networks and services are, both to respond to the current pandemic and to address disaster management.
It is therefore important that, we do not wait until a public health crisis or another outbreak before realizing how important and a powerful tool ICT is. The time to invest and develop a formidable ICT infrastructure is now.