Tech in Corona-times
Technology and its various innovations have proved to be a saviour in the COVID-19 outbreak
While hundreds battle to make ends meet and migrant labour struggles to get home, one day melts into the next for the rest of us, as this lockdown continues. This unprecedented global health emergency is being made a tad more bearable all thanks to technology. From telemedicine to online grocers, from drones to video conferencing — technology has been the backbone of medical care, relief, and rescue in COVID-19 times.
Those very same e-commerce platforms that faced off with brick and mortar traders, are today being able to provide succour in the form of essential commodities (after the initial demand-supply hurdles) to those who can afford it. Telemedicine made consulting doctors remotely a possibility while easing the burden on the Indian healthcare system. People can now consult a registered medical practitioner over video, audio, or text as long as both parties play by the government-mandated guidelines. Eldercare platforms such as Kolkata-based TriBeCa Care are effectively using technology to serve isolated senior citizens, who are most susceptible to this often-deadly virus. From webinars to 24X7 emergency helplines and now, a phone-based free psychological support service, technology is being utilised to optimally.
At a time when distance is preferred over proximity, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) such as 'drones' are proving to the useful foot soldiers. The Tamil Nadu government has tied up with the startup, Garuda Aerospace, and student engineers of Agni College of Technology in Chennai to use over 300 drones to disinfect public spaces. Drones designed by IIT Guwahati alumni under their startup, Marut Dronetech, is holding trials of their drones fitted with infrared cameras that allow thermal screening of groups.
Indeed, startups are pulling their weight in this fight for survival and preservation. The startup community, along with its supporters such as PE-VC industry body, Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA), TiE, Nudge Foundation, and Wizikey, have launched the Action COVID-19 Team (ACT). This pivotal initiative will not only support startup founders during these uncertain times but most importantly, the Rs 100 crore ACT Grant will provide impetus to innovators seeking scalable solutions to COVID-19.
Staying locked up doesn't come easily to us humans (though we have subjected animals to the same for close to eternity), and rising to the occasion of breaking the monotony of #QuarantineLife have been OTT platforms and online gaming. Both have seen an exponential increase in usage with OTT platforms shifting to streaming SD (standard definition) content on mobile phones to meet the increased demand. Apps such as WhatsApp and Houseparty allow group video chatting with the latter even allowing participants to play games with each other. And obviously, there's the current opium of the masses — TikTok — to keep the troops busy.
COVID-19 has all but wiped out the economy with most industrial activities coming to a grinding halt. But for the chosen few who can still continue their work, tech innovations such as Zoom, WebEx, and Skype have come as a godsend. Important meetings and decision-making have not had to suffer and the popularity of these applications have soared in our cloistered lives. Projects can be tracked using apps such as Asana while cllaboration tools such as Flock, Evernote, HubSpot, and obviously, Google's various products such as Google Hangouts and Drive, have in fact helped increase productivity. The boost to work-from-home may continue in the post-Corona days. We may also witness companies actively move towards creating and implementing company-specific software to ensure better security.
The greatest boon of technology is edtech allowing virtual classrooms across schools and colleges to ensure that students keep up with their syllabus even though physical classes are on hold. The rest of us also have the opportunity to upskill or learn courses online while under lockdown. COVID-19 trackers and the Indian government's Aarogya Setu are proving fruitful in tracking infections while also helping collect and collate data, which would in turn aid in the fight against the virus. Satellite technology is also gathering crucial information surrounding activities in public spaces. Countries such as South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, and Italy are actively utilising technology to track cases by using location data to find suspected infected persons. UK, South Korea, and now India, are using apps to avoid COVID-19 patients. China is using AI-powered thermal cameras to find people with fever and along with Singapore are using robots to oversee quarantine centres.
Technology has indeed proved to be a saviour in these times of fear. A necessary blessing whose powers should only be developed further and harnessed for greater good once this dastardly virus dies down.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur