The technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution offer efficient ways to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 health crisis. But the problem with these technologies is that they are not available to everyone. For underdeveloped countries, this is a disadvantage in reducing the transmission of the virus.
It is a type of technology that helps to contain and cope with the pandemic. Tools such as Artificial Intelligence and mobile technology are being used to collect data to help track contacts, check symptoms, and predict outbreaks and vulnerabilities.
Partners HealthCare, a network of non-profit hospitals and physicians, has created an IA-19 COVID screener-based network to identify severe symptoms in patients. The Canadian model of BlueDot Artificial Intelligence provided a warning on December 31 that the Covid would be extended worldwide. Moreover, computer vision cameras with Artificial Intelligence are being used to identify whether or not social distancing is respected in public places, and IA-based thermographic cameras are also being used to identify sick people by scanning in public spaces. On the other hand, in order to track contacts, Apple and Google have partnered to adapt mobile bluetooth technology to this practice.
Advanced materials and nanotechnologies play a very important role in rapid diagnosis, therapeutics, surveillance and monitoring, vaccines and the development of new forms of personal protective equipment. This is the case of Nanotech Surface, an Italian company that has created a disinfectant based on nanomaterials that continues to kill bacteria even months after being applied to a surface. Or Respilon, a Czech company has developed respiratory masks made of nanofibers that are capable of killing a virus instead of trapping it.
But we are in a world where countries have very different capabilities, so not everyone is able to develop these technologies to cope with Covid-19, not everyone can have the physical and digital infrastructure and human capital to use these technologies. We can find four categories of countries:
- Countries with high levels of capacity and use / effectiveness
- Countries with high capacity and low use / effectiveness
- Countries with low capacity and high use / effectiveness
- Countries with low capacity and low use / effectiveness
Based on these categories, innovators and technologists could identify which technological interventions would be most effective in combating Covid-19, depending on each country and its resources and levels of preparedness.
The countries with high capacity and use / effectiveness are those that have fought against the coronavirus in a more effective way because they have taken advantage of the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the case of Germany, which has managed to keep the mortality rate lower than other countries and is also making use of smartphone location data to carry out aggressive contact tracking. In South Korea, one company has developed test kits in days rather than weeks thanks to its AI technology, which gives them the ability to increase production before the crisis erupts. The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) uses a mobile app to report symptoms and chatbots and phone calls to spread information and identify nearby test locations. In addition, the DPRK’s Ministry of Health has authority to collect data from telecommunications companies, credit card transactions, GPS systems and other sources, and its officials are alerted every time someone passes their mandatory quarantine.
Countries with high capacity but low use/effectiveness are those where healthcare systems are trying to integrate technology that could be used to improve their response. In the United States, there has been no increase in the production of needed medical supplies and the healthcare response has been described as disorganized and uncoordinated. On the other hand, Spain has also been criticized for not acting from the beginning. As for the 3-D printing community, it can be said that it has developed and taken a step forward since there was a great shortage of health protection material.
The countries with low capacity and high use / effectiveness are those developing countries in Africa where there is a perceived growth of cell phone solutions, mobile technology can be used to promote social distancing. In countries such as Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria, the use of mobile money instead of cash transactions is already taking place, thanks to increased access and reduced fees. For example, in Nigeria, the Ministry of Health disseminates information about the virus as well as symptoms, means of prevention, and treatment through Whatsapp. The methods of these countries are far from being a complete solution to the fight against covid, but they do help to avoid trips to health centers. Also, HelloDoctor, a mobile health platform has emerged that, thanks to a public-private partnership in South Africa, is free to all for the duration of the pandemic.
Finally, we have the low-capacity, low-use countries. These are the most vulnerable; they are places like the Central African Republic and Chad, where a lot of thought will have to be given to how to exploit their limited resources towards innovation in order to fight the Covid-19. Some technologies do not require high capacity, but a good form of government that is capable of enabling them. It is not ruled out that poor countries with low capacity can use drones to deliver health supplies in the event of a serious outbreak.
In summary, 4IR technologies are enabling many countries to deal more effectively with this pandemic crisis, but there is clearly a gap between those countries that have the capacity to enable it and those that do not. No country will be left behind primarily because of global cooperation and solidarity among nations as well as a mix of investment, innovation, preparedness and effective use and leadership within countries.