KATHMANDU, March 25
The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread on a global scale as most countries are in strict lock-down. Citizens have stocked up goods and preparing for a long self-quarantine at home. During such times, what are the big names in the technology industry doing to mitigate the effects of the virus in the society? Today, most technology companies are working from home, even in Nepal.
As social distancing is recommended to flatten the curve, social media has been an important platform of communication and keeping oneself up-to-date. Technology has always been a powerful tool to raise awareness and help people overcome global issues.
Facebook has revealed that it is banning the ads that claim to “cure” Corona and stop for once the spread of false news. Fake news and rumors often inflict unnecessary fear among people. Therefore, Instagram and Twitter are also playing their parts to stop spreading rumors as it is a sensitive topic.
Similarly, Apple and Google are keeping misinformation apps from appearing on the AppStore and Play Store respectively. Google has even launched a COVID-19 Information & Resources website that offers extensive information on the illness. What these Fortune 500 companies have in common is that they have pledged everyone to work from home and stay informed.
Let’s see how AI and Technology can help with fighting the pandemic.
Identify, Track and Forecast Outbreaks
To bring the fight to the virus, first, we need to be able to track it. Technology like AI can track the virus by analyzing news, social media platforms, and other sources. In this way, we can detect an outbreak and be ready with precaution and preventive measures. For example, BlueDot, a Canadian startup company warned about the COVID-19 threat way before the WHO issued its public warning.
Diagnose the Virus
Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba built an AI-powered diagnosis system that is 96% accurate at diagnosing the virus. This helps realize the spread of the virus in time and help take the necessary actions to control the spread. With the help of such machines, we can detect and monitor the illness efficiently.
Deliver Robotic Solution to Avoid Human Contact
Government around the world are urging their citizens to stay home and avoid physical contact as much as possible. Meanwhile, there are certain needs due to which they have to step outside such as grocery shopping, medical supplies, etc.
An approach for its solution would be drone delivery. Terra Drone is using drones to transport medical samples and quarantine materials with minimal risk in China. Another way of avoiding physical contact would be by using robots to sterilize, deliver food and supplies. UVD Robots from Blue Ocean Robotics uses ultraviolet light to kill bacterias and viruses from surfaces.
Possibly Develop Drugs or Vaccine
Benevolent AI is using its product for the first time on infectious diseases in an effort to fight Coronavirus. In fact, it has proposed existing drugs that might be useful within a few weeks of the outbreak. Similarly, Google’s Deep Mind division has contributed by publishing the findings of the proteins that might make up the virus.
Advanced Fabrics (Facemasks) to Offer Protection
Sonovia, an Israeli startup company, hopes to arm healthcare systems with face masks from their anti-bacterial and anti-pathogenic fabric. With shortages of face masks around the globe, it would be a big help from the tech companies if they start importing or manufacturing such products.
Chatbots that Share Correct Information
Fake news and rumors have been circulating in social media apps just because people have nowhere to confirm the news. Chatbots can serve as an essential communication tool to keep people updated on recent findings. Free online health consultation services from chatbots will help control the spread of rumors.
Coronavirus Vaccine Development with Supercomputers
Major tech companies such as Huawei, DiDi, and Tencent have supercomputers and cloud computing resources for faster research and development of a cure. The speed of these systems will certainly help professionals calculate and model possible solutions in no time.
There is so much more than technology, AI and data science can contribute to helping societies effectively deal with the pandemic.
Technology in Nepal to Minimize the Effects
Meanwhile, some fintech companies in Nepal have done their part to promote working from home and avoid physical contact. Khalti, ConnectIPS, and eSewa have removed bank transfer charges for their platforms.
Fusemachines, a company working in AI, has developed an open-source platform for updating all events and details around Nepal regarding the Coronavirus outbreak. This Founder of Fusemachines, Sameer Maskey went on to his Facebook timeline to aware people of the 90+ hours put in to build the platform.
This platform was built with the aim of providing real-time data and preventive measures of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nepal.
Similarly, in the wake of such a global pandemic, tech companies in Nepal have started working from home. Nepal Telecom and Ncell have come up with awareness campaigns. However, with social distancing, a major concern for Nepal’s technological sector has become a surge in Internet traffic.
Nepal clearly isn’t prepared with advanced technical equipment to provide internet services to all. Due to this, ISPAN has released certain guidelines for the usage of the Internet. While Nepal is on the verge of finding new cases, do you think it is the right move to minimize internet usage?
I mean, the internet is supposed to be a means of communication and information. It is of utmost importance to stay updated with the recent cases and reports of the virus spread.
Do you think Nepal has the equipment and resources to deal with COVID-19 may the time arrive?
Can Nepal contribute to fighting the virus on a global scale?