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Humans and Technology Will Be Needed to Solve the Current Crisis

Rashmi Verma

Rashmi Verma

Senior Director, Financial Technology - Equifax

“The survival instinct of humans will pull us out of the COVID-19 crisis and technology will provide the necessary tools.”

Rashmi Verma, Financial Technology Tweet

This coronavirus spreads ten times faster than the normal flu.  With no vaccine available at this time, the Covid-19 pandemic has become a global threat.  We must act immediately to respond and recover from this crisis.  The question is – how do we control and outrun the spread?  Is dealing with the crisis just about controlling and preventing the virus spread?  What about the lost lives, lost jobs, economic downturn and permanently changed human behavior? Recovery from this crisis will need re-establishment of social and economic stability and resilience.

QR Code Technology
QR Code Technology

A crisis normally runs through its 6-stage course – warning, risk assessment, response, management, resolution, and recovery.  Humans have a critical role in all the stages of the crisis because we are the strategists and the decision-makers driving crisis management.  Currently, different countries are in various stages of the crisis, depending on their level of exposure and ability to combat the virus spread. China has established a digital platform for reporting workers’ health and is gradually helping more businesses to re-open, using personal health QR code technology.  The United States is implementing a phased approach to open after lockdown.  As we are working through the research and preparing for COVID-19 vaccine mass production, many countries are preparing for re-opening.  Their focus is not just to recover from the crisis, but also to prepare for the new norm.  Covid-19 pandemic has re-emphasized the importance of digital readiness. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digital society and adapting the latest technology is critical for businesses and countries to operate in the post-COVID-19 world.

Artificial intelligence models and predictive analytics are vital tools in analyzing the trend of current state of the spread. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies have been utilizing the sentinel surveillance technology and flu-tracking programs to detect the spread and impact of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing guidance through their websites. With Facebook’s News Feed and Google’s survey tool, researchers have access to millions of data points essential for risk analysis. Mobile phone data, Infrared sensors, Artificial Intelligence models, chatbots and drones are being leveraged for high risk online screening, contact tracing, locating hospitals and providing real-time statistics. Several Vaccines are in clinical trials using a range of platforms such as RNA, DNA, inactivated viruses, protein subunits, and virus-like particles (VLPs). US biotech companies, Moderna (MRNA) and Inovio (INO), have candidates in phase 1 trials. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi (SNY) are preparing for mass production of the hi-tech vaccine that is currently in a clinical trial. 

Technologies such as cloud computing, high-speed network streaming, machine learning, big data, the internet-of-things, 3D printing and robotics are supporting e-commerce, digital supply chain, social media, digital payment, and telehealth.  Humans are making informed decisions and executing strategies leveraging technology as a tool for testing, tracing, and treating the virus.

Meanwhile, fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic have been overwhelming and is negatively impacting people’s mental health. Humans are making use of technology to demonstrate the act of empathy and kindness to strengthen the communities.  Frontline healthcare workers are being celebrated as heroes on social media. Family and friends are spending quality time on Zoom (ZM), WhatsApp and FaceTime. Celebrities have donated their hours to support the recovery efforts.  Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), Disney (DIS) and others have extended free trial service offerings.  Snapchat has launched a new augmented reality donation experience that encourages users to contribute to the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 relief efforts.  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million for the global response to Covid-19 relief.

With no vaccine available in the immediate future, the world will continue to rely on data, analytics, and digital technology to combat the spread of the virus.  Digital infrastructure and digital mindsets must be adapted to support the economy where online shopping, remote working, virtual meetings, and distance learning will be the new norm.  

Humans can think beyond the scientific rationalism.  Technology can collect and process data at a faster speed than humans.  This duo will pull us out of the pandemic and will help us propel our recovery from it.

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