By Tonny Tugee
As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the toll on human life is growing exponentially. The impact that COVID-19 has had on the global healthcare system and the global economy is unprecedented and will likely be felt for many years to come.
Within this bleak landscape, the ICT sector has an increasingly significant role to play in terms of ensuring that connectivity remains stable until the global crisis is over. Sadly, it may take months or even years for a semblance of life ‘as we knew it’ to return to normal.
While countries in Africa and around the world battle to ‘flatten the curve’, industry collaboration among ICT players (datacentres, fibre optic infrastructure, towers and antennae) is crucial to ensure that society remains connected and functional, despite being required to operate at unusually high capacity. It is fair to say that the role of these stakeholders, who are essential in providing mobile technology, has never been more vital.
Let’s look at four important ways that the ICT industry is helping humanity weather the COVID-19 storm.
- Technology that enables critical communication
In recent weeks, the media has repeatedly drawn comparisons between the devastating effects of the Spanish Flu of 1918, World War II and COVID-19. However, there is one important differentiating factor: In the first two global crises people did not have the ability to communicate the way they do today, thanks to mobile technology. Living in a truly connected world gives us the advantage of being able to educate people everywhere about the pandemic and create awareness about preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus so that healthcare systems don’t become completely overwhelmed.
The ICT industry is providing support to governments and healthcare providers using multiple data sets to share predictive insights into the spread and impact dynamics of the crisis. This, in turn, enables country leaders and society at large to be more proactive in flattening the curve and reducing the social and economic impact of COVID-19.
- Technology that drives productivity
Many businesses have found a lifeline to keep their operations going in the wake of the crisis. This is as a result of the connectivity provided by the ICT industry to enable working remotely. Within a matter of weeks, companies have transformed their traditional offices into virtual ones, with employees being set up to work productively from home.
With internet connectivity and access to platforms like Skype for Business, BlueJeans, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, employees can connect with colleagues and clients in the virtual space to meet their operational deliverables.
- Technology that preserves social ties and fosters education
Social platforms provide a way for people in self-isolation or lockdown to remain connected to friends and family, and even continue to support social causes that they are passionate about. Having access to the World Health Organisation’s website or to reputable TV news channels is also crucial for the sharing of real-time statistics and accurate information.
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, many schools and tertiary institutions around the world have been forced to close their physical doors. However, thanks to technology, education is still accessible through online learning programmes and teacher-led virtual curriculums.
- Technology that protects information
Cyber security is now more important than ever, as more and more people are working remotely. COVID-19 phishing scams are on the increase, and in these tough financial times protecting one’s personal and professional information is essential. The ICT industry is well-positioned to assist with expert advice to help users become more vigilant, so that they don’t fall prey to cyber criminals who will undoubtedly try to exploit the public during this time.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, one thing is certain: As we face a new world that has not yet been defined, the role of the ICT industry will become even more crucial in mitigating the economic and social repercussions of the pandemic, particularly in developing countries.
(Tonny Tugee is the MD for SEACOM East and North-East Africa).