|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss the importance of technology and private sector in fighting an epidemic like Coronavirus.
Conclusion. Way forward.
Following the recent Coronavirus outbreak, there have been a number of investigations to ensure that we learn the lessons from this epidemic and use them to prepare for the next. A significant impact in future outbreaks would be by use of technology and involvement of the private sector. With recent innovation in converging technologies such as mobile computing, mobile communications and broadband internet, it has been possible to trial a number of innovative approaches to epidemic response.
Importance of technology and private sector in fighting an epidemic:
- Communication: During an outbreak, clear messaging to the local population is vital to ensure they are informed and reminded to use appropriate precautions. Thanks to technological push for mobile phones, several NGOs have been able to spread the message highlighting the hazards of Ebola and how to avoid contracting the virus.
- Quick training: Technological advances in mobile computing are used to train health workers in the field. The benefit of tools such as this is that they can quickly deliver standardized learning, with the ability to be updated in the field as new procedures are validated. Additionally, by using established communications links, training material can be tailored and tested with the health workers on site.
- Awareness: During an epidemic, communication is a critical tool to ensure we can both spot the virus spreading early and make attempts to contain it by educating the local population. From an NGO perspective, it also provides a means of maintaining medical services through the use of telemedicine.
- Accessibility: Another critical issue faced by citizens is accessibility. Here, digital technology can help. For example, the company Practo makes it easy for patients to find medical specialists, compare reviews by patients, and book appointments online or using a mobile app.
- Investment: The Indian healthcare system faces enormous challenges due to the lack of funding for preventive health care, training of healthcare professionals and investment in healthcare infrastructure, especially in rural areas and the weaker states. Start-ups can alleviate these problems.
- Real time monitoring: Several innovative solutions have been trialled to assist in the monitoring of any new virus outbreak. The viability of these approaches will only grow with the increase in mobile penetration.
- Data examination: Innovations are being used to examine data from mobile phones to track users who have been close to a known case of the virus. Data from these tools are now being analysed. Companies like BlueDot combine public health and medical expertise with advanced data analytics to track, contextualise, and anticipate infectious disease risks.
- Surveillance: Technology can be used to assess risk associated and surveillance of epidemic. For instance, China has developed a Health Code to identify and assess the risk of every individual in a targeted zone based on travel history in infected places. The individuals are assigned a colour code which they can access via popular apps to know if they ought to be quarantined or allowed in public.
- Diagnosis: Across the world, there is a growing role for technology in identification, tracking, and treating an epidemic. Private sector and start-ups can help in quick identification and treatment of such epidemics.
- Limiting the spread: Mass surveillance system based on facial recognition technologies, sensing technologies to identify those with fever in public places and data from mobile phone companies to trace the people who might be infected, and limit the spread of the disease. Many technology firms are leveraging artificial intelligence for business and policy purposes.
- Vaccine development: Technology like artificial intelligence and involvement of the private sector is must to create vaccines for epidemic in a short
In India, the state has dominated the development of science and its organisation. That was of great value in the early decades after Independence. Today, what India needs is a stronger private sector in science and greater synergy with it in dealing with challenges like the corona crisis. The current crisis is an opportunity for India to build on the existing domestic technological capabilities in the areas of artificial intelligence, big data analytics, life sciences, health technology in the private sector.