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Role of technology during the Covid-19 pandemic

By Preeti Kanwar
Chief Information Security Officer & Head, Information Technology & Business applications
NEC Technologies India
May 29 2020: In all eras, technology has been an integral part of civilization to help human race. Humans have been continuously putting in lot of efforts in new innovations, technology advancements and its adoption etc. Every time technology has proven its advantage for humanity if it is been used in the right way.
This pandemic has enabled a new ecosystem for the survival of the human race where technology has played an significant role. The way of working, way of managing the situation – everything is new for us and all of us are struggling together to manage and salvage the situation and the crisis. We all are looking at new and innovative ways to adopt the technology and use it to our advantage. The development and implementation of different solutions aimed at combating the COVID-19 outbreak is rapidly and continuously taking the shape.
The availability of information is the essence of any civilization. Each one of us have been getting lot of information sitting at home which is helping us to become aware of the new virus, how to handle its outbreak, what are the Do’s and Don’ts etc etc. Relevant and irrelevant: both types of information is available, it is up to us to choose what is relevant for us and what needs to be discarded. It is up to us to utilize the available information in the required manner.
Digitalization has enabled us to screen the population, track the infection, prioritizeand allocate the required resources, and ultimately design targeted responses. Since long there are debates about pros and cons of surveillance. But during this situation, even extensive surveillance has proved its advantages.
Various  surveillance methodologies have been implemented to help WHO , Government  and concerned agencies to track the movement of citizens, track their contact histories and raise the alarms if anyone come in contact with infected person.  There are different kinds of applications which are helping us in initial detection of disease, in contacting the concerned agencies/ stakeholders during emergencies. With the advent of technology, we do not feel alone and helpless even if we are in isolation. There are also discussions going on where AI based testing might be done based upon your voice and other responses.
Technology has enabled business continuity for many organizations and sectors even during this crisis by enabling their workforce to work from home. Since long, success for WFH (Work From Home) was a dilemma for many organizations. But the current COVID-19 situation has resolved our long existing dilemma by pushing all of us to adhere to WFH model.  The need of the hour is to embrace the technology, to innovate the ways for new model enablement and to ensure that security is not optional.
With availability of wide range of collaboration tools, organizations  are able to establish effective and secured communication protocols within the teams and with their customers and partners. There are few sectors which cannot continue with their business during these kind of situations but there are many which can, and those who can, should explore the required technology enablement and usage of the right kind of tools and techniques.
With the availability of technology, we are not only able to manage the businesses but are also able to maintain the connectivity with our families and friends. It is heartening to imagine the lockdown without these kind of collaboration tools. Today, even if we are not able to visit our near and dears, still we are able to have video and audio calls with them anytime – anywhere. With the closure of worldwide Universities, Schools; with the help of technology and collaboration tools students are engaged and are able to continue with their studies, can talk to their friends, can play virtual games, do exercise etc which is a big relief for most of the parents.
I would say end to end automation is highly required and is the need of the hour to face the situations like COVID-19. Because of lack of human presence at work, any manual activity is prone to errors and delays which can be perfected using the automation. During this major crisis robots have taken the front seat to help the human race.  At certain places, Robotics has proved their value to treat and help quarantined patients without any human contact saving lot of health workers from getting infected. Robots contributed in preparing meals at hospitals, spraying disinfectants at various locations. In many hospitals, robots even performed diagnosis and conducted thermal imaging. Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak has utilized the robotics very effectively to server their patients. According to a report, a small robot named Little Peanut even delivered food to passengers on a flight from Singapore to Hangzhou, China.
Where technology has proved its worth beyond doubt, there is the flip side as well if technology is not being handled properly or misused by human beings. In that case humans are to be blamed not the advancement of technology. It is prime responsibility of all of us to utilize the technology in the required manner. On one side,  increased surveillance of citizens have provided the helping hand in controlling the spread of the disease; the other side may  prove to be unfavourable if personal data is not being handled properly.  A sincere advice to everyone to not to misuse the technology rather to use it for the benefit of human race.