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Pandemic Technology: The Coronavirus Case Study

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If necessity is the mother of invention, then it is only natural that technology thrives in trying times. When we think of halting the spread of the Coronavirus, many people may envision the brave nurses, doctors, and scientists on the frontlines. However, in recent times, it is the technology that is doing the heavy lifting. Pandemics like the Coronavirus, SARS, and others are pushing infrastructure to its limits and innovation to new heights.

To understand the technology forces at play, one must recognize that the foundations of developing nations are crumbling in the face of COVID 19. Eighty-five nations have closed all learning institutions, impacting over 776.7 million children and youth. The NBA, La Liga, NHL and other major sporting organizations have all cancelled the remainder of their seasons. Italy and El Salvadore have quarantined their entire countries and more nations are following suit. The UN paints a doomsday scenario of the global economy losing $2 trillion if governments don’t act quick. In this new world where the human touch is a thing of the past, billions of people are depending on technology to hold us all together.

On the bright side, the quarantined masses who happen to be tech-savvy are finding new ways to keep their business going. SMEs and multinationals offering software-based solutions will be shielded from the crippling blow waiting for supply chain players according to Sequoia Capital. Companies like Zoom, We Chat Work, and Lark are seeing upticks as confined entrepreneurs leverage new ways to connect, learn, and conduct business. Yunqi partners are seeing growth in logistics and cybersecurity companies as people are now relying on the internet and home deliveries as a means of survival in the short-term.

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Technology seems to be our only hope in the long-term, as both a way out of our current woes and prevention in the future. While people will always have their part to play, their efforts are being multiplied exponentially with the help of new innovations. Doctors and nurses play the role of infantry as data science and AI serve as our heavy artillery. Currently, companies are leveraging AI algorithms to forecast outbreaks and supercomputers to process immense amounts of data used to create vaccines. Robots are being used to sterilize utensils and drones are delivering supplies.

The Coronavirus is giving the world a lesson on collaboration and innovation and Nigeria needs to pay attention. Rumours are rampant, but the truth is, the African continent is not reporting anything close to the numbers of the infected in Europe and America. The same might not be true next time. Traumatized communities and empathetic governments now see the impacts of pandemics and are releasing funding and reducing the burden on the public. However; Nigeria can make investments today that prevent us from facing a similar fate tomorrow.

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While the DOW Jones, one of the world’s most-watched stock markets, fell by nearly 3,000 points, some tech plays are weathering the storm better than most. Companies like Slack and Broadcom further prove the point that investing in tech and other innovative sectors prepares Nigeria for a better tomorrow. These are the companies that are adaptive enough to survive a crisis while creating the capacity to address our future “unknown unknowns.”

After this Coronavirus pandemic blows over, we all have decisions to make. Areas like data science, AI, machine learning, and robotics are not something that we can wait for others to create on our behalf; they will be interwoven into the fabric of successful societies. Whenever and however possible and at whatever cost imaginable, the masses must be exposed to technology in hopes that we will develop the future creators and consumers of Nigerian innovation.

The best we can do today is to follow common sense. Strict border control and quarantine policies is the way to protect ourselves from irresponsible travellers. The use of hand sanitizer, not touching our face, avoiding crowded locations, and safe social distance may be the only hope for individuals. As a country and continent, we need to realize that if things go really bad, Africa will be the safest place on Earth. We should treat it that way as our national pledge requires: “To defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory.”

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