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Could COVID-19 technology backfire on us?

Adnan Kayyali

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Could COVID-19 technology backfire on us

The sudden widespread use of technology as a result of the pandemic may put us in a complicated situation later down the road. Countries with no prior infrastructure for certain technologies have had to adapt over a short time, causing both disruption and advancement. Could COVID-19 technology backfire on us?

Working from home, remote meetings, self-driving vehicles, data driven mass information systems. All of these technologies and much more have made their way into public consciousness and in some countries, into everyday life.

No one can deny the boost it has given to a society’s capabilities and efficiency when coupled with advanced communication technologies. Sudden changes and shifts in behavior like this however may have unforeseen consequences, and undesired results.

Take for example contact and location tracing apps that can reveal a person’s identity such as those used in China and South Korea, and to a lesser extent, in some western countries. These applications would have never been propagated in normal circumstances.

It is known that the pandemic has impacted employment on a scale and to an extent never seen before. Although the problem will most likely improve when things stabilize and a vaccine is created and distributed.

Those who have also been impacted, are the people whose professions were either partially or completely replaced by AI and automation. Technologies do  erase jobs, but can create newer, better ones. In the advent of the pandemic, AI was used to brilliant effect when helping hospitals keep up with overwhelming demands.

Such major advancements cannot be understated, but we must not forget those who are left behind. Without the proper skills to survive in a technologically savvy world. Raj Koneru, CEO/Founder at Kore.ai, offers what could be a viable solution. “We cannot deny that certain jobs will definitely be fully replaced,” Koneru said, “In our view, companies should focus on reskilling their employees rather than replacing them. At times, it helps organizations to discover the hidden talents within the workforce… “

The future will see more of the same, and only time will tell if the employment landscape will change. What is certain is that all governments have big decisions to make in order to avoid a COVID-19 technology backfire that could destabilize nations.

Main source of information: Paul McNeil – TechTalks. Analysis by Adnan Kayali.

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Junior social media strategist with a degree in media and communication. Technology enthusiast and free-lance writer. Favorite hobby: 3D modeling.

MedTech

The pandemic’s hidden digital divide

Mounir Jamil

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Digital Divide

The current pandemic has really opened our eyes to the importance of interconnectivity. Lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines helped us realize how our progress and prosperity is a function dependent upon one other, and we can clearly see this on an individual-micro level and on a group-macro level (companies, groups, governments).

The larger the company, the more complex the ecosystem of partners and their interdependence. Studies show that this is particularly true in developing countries where brewing beer sustains millions of livelihoods dependent on a fragmented and traditional trade such as corner shops, grocery stores and small retail.

Naturally, as a company grows larger, a more complex ecosystem of partners is required, but what about smaller micro retailers? The current pandemic has shed light on a critical weakness for small retailers. In most developed countries, the general consensus is that citizens enjoy high speed internet access therefore transitioning a business from brick-and-mortar to online seems relatively straightforward (with some training and practice). However, when we look at other countries where Wi-Fi is not as readily available, or when citizens have to walk lengthy distances to access Wi-Fi, that’s when you understand the daily impact of the digital divide.

As the pandemic continues, access to technology becomes another source of vulnerability and inequality as smaller retailers struggle to make the shift to digital, which only makes it harder for them to deliver across their value chain. Businesses that played vital roles in their communities are now unable to meet the growing demands online.

The pandemic has forced us to face the issue of the digital divide; while some might think we are all moving toward a digitally enabled future, the reality is that there are many communities across the world still falling behind. The issue of what needs to be done rests in the hands of governments and leaders worldwide to ensure that digital inclusion is extended to all citizens and disadvantaged groups.

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MedTech

UK to rollout first-round of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Mounir Jamil

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Pfizer BioNtech

The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently gave the green light to rollout the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for commercial use in the UK.

The first batch of vaccines are already making their way to the UK, with 800,000 units expected in the coming days. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that the NHS will do its part in contacting people for the vaccine shot.

Based on vaccine storage requirements (-70°C), hospitals will be the first to receive supplies since they already have the correct storage facilities; the first round will likely take place in hospitals for care home staff, NHS staff and patients.

While the typical vaccine usually takes 10 years to be fully accepted, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was developed and introduced in just 10 months.

The UK has ordered enough units to vaccinate 20 million people – around 40 million doses in total. These doses will be given out as soon as they are made available by Pfizer in Belgium. The first round is expected next week, and “several millions” will be made available throughout December said Hancock. He also added that the majority of the rollout will take place next year.

The vaccine will be free, and it will not be mandatory. In addition, there are 3 ways of vaccinating citizens in the UK

  • Vaccination Centers
  • Hospitals
  • In the community, with general practitioners and pharmacists

As we speak, 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers in venues like conference centers or sport stadiums are now being set up. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

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MedTech

New technology has made COVID-19 group tests possible

Adnan Kayyali

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COVID-19 group tests

An independent technology and product development company, The Technology Partnership (TTP) has developed CoTest, a pooled screening device for conducting COVID-19 group tests. 

The vaccine is coming but when and who will get it first still remains unclear, but what is for sure is that testing cannot stop now, or in the next year at the very least. TTP states that their solution allows tests to be done on up to 40 people at a time, revealing the result within 30 minutes.

The equipment used for testing is reportedly easy to handle – samples are taken the conventional way, through a nasal or oral swab.

“We believe this technology represents an important step forward in distributed screening capacity, reducing the risk of transmission and allowing organizations to take greater control over their health security, stay open and relieve pressure on central services”.

Given the easy use and transportation of the CoTest, businesses and institutions of all kinds may want to get their hands on it. Essentially the COVID-19 group tests are just one test, but for up to 40 people at a time. This is an empowering level of efficiency that can take the load off central testing centers and labs while providing a more immediate response.

“With support, it’s entirely possible that ‘CoTest’ could be in schools and businesses and being used as a key tool in how we manage the virus.” said Peter Crossley, product development lead at TTP. The cost efficiency of this technology becomes increasingly powerful as infection rates decrease and health security monitoring becomes key.”

TTP is seeking more partners to push their new COVID-19 group test solution, which could prove to be a crucial tool in the coming months and years. While the world waits for a vaccine, we will have to continue finding ways of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

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