KAMPALA – It is without a doubt ICT has been fundamental in combating the Covid-19 pandemic worldover directly and indirectly.
Much as people have in the past disassociated themselves from things to do with technology, these days of the pandemic have taught them the hard way as everything literally went digital.
While delivering his Key note address at the 10th Annual International Leadership Virtual Conference 2020 organized by Makerere University Business School (MUBS) Leadership Center, Prof. Victor W.A. Mbarika, a Stallings International Distinguished scholar and MIS Professor at East Carolina University said that ICT has and is still playing a key role in managing this Covid 19 pandemic.
He explained that for starters, the dissemination of preventive information like hand washing, use of face mask and social distancing has widely been circulated through ICT.
The scholar also noted that through the pandemic days, many people have adopted a tech based new mode of acquiring treatment
“During the pandemic, many nations adopted telemedicine or e-medicine for reaching out to patients and handling other health challenges. This was adopted mostly because of the protocol to limit contact with patients and yet to provide quick medical care to people to avoid the spread of disease,” he shared.
He added that in countries like Rwanda, drones and robots were used for health care deliveries and scanning of people to detect temperature rise. These were also used to monitor security borders to prevent people from migrating from one place to another
The pandemic has facilitated the growth of E-business and commerce, something that had for long failed to gain momentum.
According to forbes.com, u.s. retailers’ online year-over-year (yoy) revenue growth was up 68% as of mid-April, surpassing an earlier peak of 49% in early January.
There has also been a 129% year-over-year growth in United States and Canadian e-commerce orders as of April 21 and an impressive 146% growth in all online retail orders.
Mbarika shares that the pandemic also gave birth to a new tech based way of doing things that have since eased communication and gave solution to a new mode of getting things done virtually.
“ICT has enhanced skill development; many people have learnt skills via zoom and you tube this season. They have learnt to develop websites, speak well and invest financially making good financial decisions,” he shares.
When President Museveni closed schools and sent learners home in a bid to control the spread of the pandemic, many schools thought it would be over in a month just like the government had anticipated.
When the period was extended to a non-specified date, many schools decided to conduct online studies in a bid to keep the learners active and engaged.
“Schools were closed but brains were not closed and learning has to continue. Many adopted e – learning to be able to continue schooling even in remote places in the world. This move demonstrated that learning can take place outside the walls of classrooms. Many institutions like COUSERA used ICT to train and certify its people,” Mbarika explained.
The Judiciary system according to Mbarika was also not left out in the wave of ICT in this season as courts have held virtual hearings sentencing and giving bail to suspects. This helped the judicial system to keep operating even when the times were hard.
According to Mbarika, the agriculture sector has also been ICT beefed in this era and FarmIT in Kenya provides farmers with agronomic support, market linkages and an e-commerce solution for example while Zambia-based Emsika is Africa’s leading platform for the wholesale and retail trade in agricultural products.
“Availability of real time data using remote sensing tools such as drones and satellites, coupled with mobile telephone and internet access are key enablers, while inclusive systems particularly serving women and undeserved groups are essential to make a difference. This also includes weather information,” he said.
Mbarika also shares that the role of women in innovation according to the US Patent and Trademark Office has been felt eminently in the times of this pandemic like never before.
“Women inventors lead the way in the fight against covid-19. The United States patent and trademark office (USPTO) investigated the participation of American women inventor-patentees in the U.S. patent system. The report highlights that the share of women among new inventors on issued patents has increased from 16.6% in 2016 to 17.3% by 2019. This shows that more women are entering and staying active in the patent system than ever before, helping close the gender innovation gap,” he shared.
He adds that women have also volunteered in the different spheres of economies especially at the frontline (health workers) of the pandemic.
“We see how women volunteers, healthcare professionals and social workers are on the frontlines of the country’s battle against the virus, particularly in rural areas. Women showing love and support to their families are limiting the spread of this disease. They help to inculcate good hygiene culture to their children and the communities they live in.”