The 1918 influenza pandemic was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. Whereas economists note that it brought the global economy to a complete halt, leaders of various nations during the current COVID-19 pandemic have turned to advanced technology to sustain the global economy.
It is important to note that to overcome COVID-19, the international community is using emerging technologies, including "big data," predictive analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, social media, 5G networks and cloud computing. All these emerging technologies empower global leaders to manage and control the spread of the virus through the process of testing, surveillance, contact tracing, isolation, and making informed, evidence-based decisions in public healthcare in conjunction with other sectors of the economy.
During March 2020, when nearly the entire world imposed stay-at-home orders, businesses were able to switch from the office space to work from home virtually with the help of internet-based technologies like Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams and Slack. Within the education sector, virtual lectures quickly replaced all classroom courses and educators adopted online or virtual teaching strategies.
Delivery companies such as Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash and Grubhub worked with local restaurants to deliver food to homes, while companies such as Amazon, Shopify and Walmart leveraged their technology to ramp up delivery. As health care centers became overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients with most non-life-threatening procedures suspended, patients relied on telehealth appointments for primary healthcare. Doctors in Rwanda deployed robotic technology to reduce human contact with COVID-19 patients.
The internet also facilitated social activities, including online church services, cloud raves, virtual parties and online streaming of concerts with celebrities and entertainment stars. People spent more time with online gaming and other online collaborative social activities.
In the 21st century, we have supercomputers that can process complex calculations very quickly. Pharmaceutical companies like Moderna Inc, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and Novavax Inc. are using the advanced technologies listed at the beginning of this article to provide future vaccines and other therapeutic solutions for COVID-19 with incredible speed and accuracy. European countries are rolling out a new testing technology with results in 90 minutes instead of days or weeks.
Countries like China, South Korea, Canada and Ghana have invested extensively in advanced technology to manage all activities related to rapid testing, contact tracing, isolation and social distance.
The countries that have maintained low COVID-19 per-capita mortality seem to explore advanced technology strategies to coordinate all activities, including more testing, early surveillance, detecting spikes, contact tracing, enforcing isolations and strict quarantine measures. Objectively, it is essential to acknowledge the fact that there is a serious struggle of using advanced technology to overcome COVID-19 in certain developed countries, including the United States and other European countries due to a lack of comprehensive technology strategy and public trust.
Whereas countries like South Korea have used social media and mobile technology to enhance consistent information management and effective coordination of activities to contain the virus, companies like Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have experienced the greatest challenge of the flood of misinformation in the form of baseless conspiracy theories of COVID-19. Hackers and other leaders are promulgating ineffective drugs and hoaxes ranging from the new 5G towers spreading the virus through microwaves to Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ intent to explore COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips in every living person on earth.
We all know how the phenomenon of fake news travels faster than truthful facts about COVID-19 on social media. Fake news tends to complement the social media business model of higher internet traffic and higher click advertising revenue. Furthermore, the use of mobile technology for surveillance and contact tracing has not been successful due to the lack of public trust because of additional issues of data privacy and protection abuse by global companies.
Currently, leaders of schools, universities, colleges and other businesses are in the process of adopting and using emerging technologies to protect students, teachers, professors and other supporting staff. It is highly prudent as recommended by the World Health Organization that all nations have a comprehensive technology strategy. This will not only help to find effective therapies and vaccines for COVID-19, but also to coordinate all needed activities to create and sustain a safer environment for rapid global economic recovery and social development.
Dr. Kennedy K. Amofa is an assistant professor of Business Administration at Columbia College. He currently teaches both MBA and undergraduate courses in management and organizational development. For the previous 12 years, he worked as an IT systems analyst supporting IBM global manufacturing operations in Rochester, Minnesota. He is passionate about advanced research studies in emerging internet technologies and business analytics.