Written by Marga Hoek, a global thought leader on sustainable business and capital and author of The Trillion Dollar Shift
Covid-19 is spreading round the world at a devastating pace but tech for good is helping us fight back.
Marga Hoek, author of The Trillion Dollar Shift and upcoming book Tech for Good in this article explores the amazing ways tech is being deployed to save lives – from virus-killing robots, infection tracking apps and outbreak-predicting AI to false news fighting chatbots.
The piece looks at the incredible tech solutions out there, how organisations across the world are collaborating to make this happen and whether this will be the tipping point for tech for good.
Tech for Good: How it’s helping us battle Coronavirus
It entered our world suddenly. The novel coronavirus, now referred to as Covid-19, has taken lives in a heartbeat and spread through the world before we could even grasp what a pandemic would look like. Now, the world is struggling to regain control.
In this new war, the emergence of technological solutions has been the light at the end of the tunnel. Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary solutions and it is great to see we can develop them at high speed, in often unexpected collaborations. Creativity has risen to an unprecedented level and ideas have come from unexpected sectors and corners.
Let’s shed some light on some of the most innovative tech solutions that have sprung up throughout the world:
Virus tracking tech – enabling us to fight at the right place, quicker
Thanks to the exponential growth of connectivity and data we can track the spread of the disease rapidly. This is crucial: the better we track, the better we fight the disease.
The Canadian start up BlueDot has proven to be able to pre-warn us about outbreaks. They have had relevant information prior to Centers for Disease Control. Metabiota, a health tech company, offered early analysis about the virus’s spread, which led to a warning that the virus would reach South Korea, Japan and Taiwan a week earlier than expected. This enabled everyone in those regions to take appropriate measures, with better results. By tracking the disease, we can help contain its spread.
Diagnostic and preventative tech – improving accuracy & speed
In this pandemic, diagnosing the virus correctly, but at great speed, is crucial. Tech helps us to do this too.
Airports, most of which are closed by now, have used technology to track infections, by taking people’s temperatures. Biosticker, for instance, can speed this up; it measures an individual’s temperature, respiration rate and coughing, and can transmit updates every 10 minutes.
The company Infervision have developed an AI solution that helps healthcare workers to detect and monitor the disease more effectively. The solution improves CT diagnosis speed. Remote health apps with chatbots that use AI can also screen people to check who is feverish and can be used simply by people at home. Initial advice can be given via chatbot, taking some of the pressure on general practitioners away.
Deploying robots to the Corona battlefields
Robots could play a crucial part in crises such as these, since they cannot become infected. We can and should use them as much as possible where it is risky to use humans. Blue Ocean Robotics can be sent to the virus battlefield. They use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses.
We have no time to lose, literally. People must be protected. Robots can work in our place – they are not at risk. The company Blue Ocean Robotics, moves around hospitals by itself, taking elevators and stairs without any problem and without any worries of the virus. It disinfects 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. It is not in the way and does not interrupt staff workflow. Through a Chinese partner, Sunay Healthcare Supply, the robots have been deployed since February in all Chinese provinces.
Collaboration without barriers
The war against the virus has united us – encouraging us to collaborate more throughout the world. This goes for the tech sector too. In the US, the Consumer Technology Association has partnered with the World Bank Group on the Global Tech Challenge, calling on tech companies around the globe to develop innovative solutions together.
One result of this collaborative ecosystem is that tech startups are actively involved with specialists in hospitals, academics and government entities around the world to activate technology. In the Netherlands, DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma had just handed over to his successors, only to be asked by the minister of health to support the government in acquiring more test materials. Governments are acknowledging global business leadership and knowledge of technology is a crucial skill they need. The crisis requires us to put everyone’s valuable experience and skill sets into service.
The Coronovirus outbreak is a huge challenge, yet there is an opportunity for Tech to prove its value to the world. I personally hope that it will help Tech for Good to become the norm, rather than the exception. With the right mindset and collaborative approach, we create a world that is so strong we can face any challenge.
Marga Hoek is a global thought leader on sustainable business and capital, Non-Executive Chairman/Board Member and of author The Trillion Dollar Shift, which was awarded gold medal for best business book on sustainability. For more information go to www.margahoek.com.