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Big Data and AI — tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that can help beat Covid-19

Countries are adopting highly data-driven approaches to battle Covid-19, using big data to create databases that track and predict the spread of the disease.

25 May, 2020 2:33 pm IST
Representational image | Bloomberg
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As global COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the unmatched connectivity that defines our era serves as both bane and blessing. Our interconnected livelihoods allow for the rapid spread of both disease and cure.

We must embrace the tools of tomorrow to defend the security of our future, and good leadership is needed now more than ever.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution gives us the tools we need to battle this global threat

Our ability to create a dynamic and interconnected framework of health data has never been more necessary. Taiwan, which has managed to successfully quell its caseload, has adopted a highly data-driven approach to battling COVID-19. Taking advantage of big data, they have created heavily resourced databases to track and predict infectious risk used in conjunction with extensive airport screening protocols. Mobile tracking has also been used to ensure high-risk individuals are quarantined at home, effectively enforcing social-distancing.

Similar tools, involving the mapping of potential carriers, have also been used in Singapore and South Korea. Other countries are invited to strongly consider their utility in flattening the proverbial curve.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has also been of great use in enabling states to manage their caseload. Notwithstanding privacy concerns, analysis of personal, travel and clinical data allows for accurate predictive modelling that can inform infectious and mortality risk assessments. Furthermore, AI can be a valuable triage tool through virtual chatbots, a considerably important resource in scenarios of high clinical demand.

Several AI models have been used in China to increase diagnostic rates by interpreting radiographic results in a fraction of the time required for human intervention, thereby filling gaps resulting from unavailable clinical expertise. China has also harnessed the power of robots and drones, which have proven instrumental in reducing interpersonal contact by facilitating the delivery of food and medication and the disinfection of public spaces.

These tools of tomorrow have considerably enabled and enhanced our efforts in this global response, but good execution must be balanced by good strategy. Countries that are unable to immediately harness the capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution must rely on swift and strategic action.

If we do not have the tools of tomorrow, we must have the leadership of today

Having been rapidly thrust into uncharted waters, our current reality calls for responsible leadership. COVID-19 has immediately altered the ways in which we live, work and relate to our surroundings, and the ability to adapt, engage and inspire through a crisis is more important than ever before.

Leadership through COVID-19 has often taken the form of responsive and decisive action. Like China, the Czech Republic swiftly implemented universal use of masks in conjunction with lockdown efforts, successfully driving a flattening of the curve. Jamaica, a dot on the global map, has implemented swift and strategic measures to contain the virus through early public sensitization and the thorough pursuit of health literacy en masse. In addition to strict and early social measures, clinical resources have been rapidly procured and early case recognition has been strongly prioritized through a commendable level of forethought.

Also read: Coronavirus is a stress test many world leaders are failing

Several other Caribbean islands (particularly the Cayman Islands and St. Vincent & the Grenadines) have stayed ahead of the curve by preparing themselves for COVID-19 before the reality of the threat approached their shores. Like Jamaica, they have been quick to implement curfews to mitigate community transmission and have communicated rapidly, transparently and thoroughly. These measures have put Jamaica on the global map in the COVID battle and its efforts have been publicly acknowledged by the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Several countries in continental Africa have been particularly proactive in responding to COVID-19. Senegal and Nigeria, with the scars of the Ebola outbreak etched in their recent memory, have readily and rapidly responded to COVID by strategically prioritizing aggressive testing. South Africa has embraced drive-through testing as an intelligent means of expediting diagnostic efforts.

We must do what we can with what we have in this COVID-19 fight

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has equipped society with highly potent tools and we must harness their capabilities, where possible, to win this fight. However, they cannot replace sound leadership. Leadership has emerged as a vital tool in states that have naïve technological infrastructures in healthcare and are forced to follow the eminent guiding words of Theodore Roosevelt in “doing what they can, with what they have”.

Where our leaders simply do not have the hands of technology to combat this threat, they must have the heart, brain, muscle, nerve and soul – elements of leadership as described by the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. They may very well be our saviour in this fight for humanity.

This article has been published from The World Economic Forum

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4 Comments Share Your Views


  1. COVID has connections with Vaccination and Digitization.That’s why the Vaccine Fanatics chose China which is COMPLETELY Digitized.This is Technocracy OR BIG-TECH, WITH SURVEILLANCE AS ITS HALL MARK.Thus COVID-19 is a False Flag by the Vaccine Fanatics,BIg Pharma,Software Cos etc.
    Please google for:-
    1.ID 2020
    2.Quantum Dot Tattoo
    3.Digital Vaccination Certificate

  2. COVID-19 is reported to be a False Flag by Vaccine Fanatics,Digitization Fanatics,Big Pharma,Software Cos,for making huge profits via mandatory Vaccination every Flu Season.7 Billion of them.These forces have to watched carefully.
    SARS and H1N1 did not need any Vaccine in India and was overcome with Blood Plasma therapy.

  3. And the combo is called TECHNOCRACY or Dictatorship of the Big Tech.This is reported to be planned at least from 2013.

  4. DATA is a bad word in India. It is communal and divisive. because it identifies an individual.
    We excel in the art of managing without measuring, so we ensured that over 70 years we never measured any thing accurately and and we managed everything selectively. Our management style was by buying off the likely opponents , to start with they were few so most of them could be managed. For the ones that did not toe the line we had other methods of dealing.
    The rulers of the past 70 years , probably still think that the old days and ways will return.So in that hope they would most likely end up loosing a lot more. If the eminent defeat is not recognized, the chances of mitigating the losses diminish.
    The use of AI on data can be very dangerous. That intelligence is just incapable of differentiating between a crook and an honest one.


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