By Winnie Kabintie
As countries across the globe continue to fight the spread of Corona Virus, digital technologies have proven to be quite critical in confronting the pandemic as well as tackling the social and economic disruptions that have been brought about by COVID-19.
Timely and efficient communication is quite crucial during a crisis and digital media platforms has made it possible for governments to provide accurate and reliable information on national COVID-19 developments.
In Kenya for instance, the Ministry Of Health has been quite active on Twitter and continues to relay crucial health information to the public.
The ministry has also set up Help hotlines where members of the public can access psychological support as well as report suspected corona virus cases. Concerned citizens have been using the hotlines to report their neighbours who break social distancing regulations.
Digital Contact Tracing
Contact tracing has always been vital in controlling the spread of infectious disease outbreak and some countries have been leveraging on technology to trace the people who have interacted with those that have tested positive for corona virus.
Basically, contact tracing works simply by asking a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to list down the people they have been in contact with then health officials set out to trace them. These contacts are then traced, asked to self-isolate as well as get tested and if need be are quarantined.
Although lack of adequate resources is impeding the contact tracing process in most countries, technology is making it possible for governments to leverage on digital contact tracing.
contact tracing bracelets- Honk Kong
Singapore was among the first countries to adopt digital contact tracing to combat spread of COVID-19 after the county launched a mobile app called TraceTogether in March, 2020.
TraceTogether works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other participating TraceTogether users in close proximity. Records of such encounters are stored locally on each user’s phone.
Honk Kong’s Electronic Wristbands
Honk Kong introduced mandatory electronic wristbands to help in contact tracing and control the spread of COVID-19. The wristbands tip off authorities when people under quarantine leave their homes.
Australia has been using it’s COVIDSafe app since April 15th to speed up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). More than 3.5 million people downloaded the app in the first five days following its release.
Last month, Google and Apple announced that they are building a contact tracing system that would use Bluetooth to track COVID-19 cases via mobile phones. The system would allow a person who tests positive for the virus to tell the app, which will then notify all of the people whose phones were nearby.
Covid-19 Relief Funds
GOK using MPESA for cash transfers to vulnerable population
Technology has also made it possible for government’s to channel relief funds and aid to vulnerable citizens in order to cushion them against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Kenya, mobile payment platform MPESA has made it possible for the first time in history, for the government to provide cash transfers to poor households.
The cash transfers are proving to be more beneficial to families, perhaps more than the traditional food donations as beneficiaries are able to plan and meet their most pressing house hold needs including medication. The cash transfer option also eradicates logistics associated with food donations, which end up eating into the aid kitty.
Education is one of the sectors that have been greatly been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and schools have remained closed. Some schools have already adopted e-learning platforms to ensure their students continue with their studies. Although this has been a challenge in public schools in the country, schools are trying their best to make do with what they have, including basic social media platforms like WhatsApp.
Technology alone will definitely not end corona virus but it provides effective and timely frameworks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to play a crucial role in combating the pandemic especially when lock down and social distancing restrictions are lifted.