Defense Against Future Pandemics - Go Digital or Go Home
The world is now afflicted by the lethal and most intense pandemic it has encountered in more than a century. Faced with the rising number of deaths and pervasive terror, communities across the globe have now been pushed to identify areas of tension in their long-forgotten socioeconomic frameworks. In the middle of this chaos, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) assumed a vital role in promoting the secure relief and care for displaced peoples. ICT has proven itself to be important not only to improve long-run resistance against potential pandemics in the future, but also to solve the tangential problems that exist in a social-distanced environment. It is crucial to note, however, that the role of ICT in pandemic relief and protection convey its own range of challenges, including transparency, responsibility and privacy. Authorities employing ICT must make sure that extensive crisis measures are not perpetually ingrained in society and that the measures taken are considered rational, proportionate and equitable.
ICT is especially well positioned to provide solutions to the issues that occur in the midst of these catastrophic events, considering the multitude of information and communication challenges that are posed by a pandemic. Well before a novel pathogen is detected, ICT-based strategies such as search result correlation and mapping can signal the existence of potentially life-threatening diseases before more conventional approaches can alert disease control specialists to their presence, providing hope for rapid containment and near-total prevention of an outbreak. If containment is required on a more progressive scale, mobile technology can assist these efforts by monitoring and notifying individuals who have come close to suspected carriers, as Singapore has done to a large extent, and GPS tracking can be used to implement the quarantine of these individuals, as South Korea has successfully modeled.
Cognitive computational methods should be used in the treatment process to identify promising new treatments, risk factors and concurrent medical conditions in a way that helps society to help those most at risk.If the outbreak advances to a point where containment must be discarded in favor of prevention, ICT will also play a vital role by supplying means for e-health tests to relieve the pressure felt by overburdened hospitals and medical personnel. Adequate communication infrastructure often promotes human relations at a time when a substantial portion of the society is likely to have been driven into isolation. This not only serves to reduce psychological tension that can have a detrimental effect on mental health at such periods, but may also function as a decentralized diagnostic network to detect possible new problems that may otherwise not be in touch with appropriate medical professionals. At last, technology may promote economic stability by encouraging employees of some sectors to operate from home, by promoting direct payments to jobs in more distressed industries to avoid mass unemployment, and by helping to provide critical services while reducing the requisite labor presence.
- “Contribution of Science, Technology and Innovation Is Key for Facing Challenges in the Health Industry and for Economic Recovery after the Pandemic.” Press Release | Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, CEPAL, 8 May 2020, www.cepal.org/en/pressreleases/contribution-science-technology-and-innovation-key-facing-challenges-health-industry.
- Bajpai, Nirupam, et al. “ICTs and Public Health in the Context of COVID-19.” Towards a New Indian Model of Information and Communications Technology-Led Growth and Development, no. 30, Center for Sustainable Development, Earth Institute, Columbia University, 11 May 2020, doi:https://doi.org/10.7916/d8-hbbh-e863.
- COVID-19 and Digital Health: What Can Digital Health Offer for COVID-19? World Health Organization, 10 Apr. 2020, www.who.int/china/news/feature-stories/detail/covid-19-and-digital-health-what-can-digital-health-offer-for-covid-19.