In a few short months, the world has turned upside down. Our societies are more interconnected than ever before and COVID-19 has spread like wildfire across the globe since it first emerged in November 2019. However, as well as being more globalised, we are more technologically advanced than ever, and one of the biggest advantages humans have over this virus is technology.

A wide array of tech innovations are being deployed against coronavirus. From virtual reality treatment and diagnosis of patients, to games teaching children about social distancing. From virus-tracking apps and big data, to machine learning, to drones and robotics, technology is helping to treat, trace and prevent the spread of the virus.

Some of the technology is straight out of a sci-fi movie. In Sichuan province, China, police wear smart helmets to automatically measure pedestrians’ body temperatures at a distance of 5 meters, with the helmet sounding an alarm if anyone has a fever.

Across the world, hospitals are turning to 3D printing to produce respirator valves, face shields, and other essential healthcare supplies, while a team of UK-based technologists have crowdsourced an online Coronavirus Tech Handbook with innovative ways to use technology to respond to the pandemic.

What do our readers think? We had a question sent in from Heidi, who wants to know how technology might be used to fight the coronavirus, particularly when it comes to minimising levels of social disruption as a result of the pandemic. How can we use technology to fight the coronavirus?

To get a response, we put Heidi’s question to Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for a Europe fit for the Digital Age. What does she think?

For another perspective, we also put Heidi’s question to Vytenis Andriukaitis, WHO Special Envoy for the European region and former European Commissioner for Health. How would he respond?

Debating Europe will be hosting a live online discussion with a panel of key policymakers and experts on this topic, on Friday 3 April 2020. The event will be streamed live on Facebook and our website. More details to follow shortly!

How can we use technology to fight the coronavirus? Could technology help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while minimising social disruption? Let us know your thoughts and questions, using the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

22 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    Q: “Could” technology help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while minimizing social disruption?
    A: Yes of course!

    But “COULD” is for the future and for NOW unhelpful.

    The present is a human disaster on all fronts and has its roots in most political & economic decisions made during probable the past 20-40 years = “The emerging EU concept”.
    States, companies, and individuals must first survive this pandemic- without:

    * huge financial scares or ruined without a reasonable chance to recover.
    * exporting newly created debt= poverty, to the next generations.

    “Official” EU online discussion as early as 3rd April will neither expedite implementations of future technologies- needed now- nor find consensus on considerations to restructure or improve the political EU concept.

    Probably, many different voices & demands will be emerging once this economic & political catastrophe has finally passed.

    As long as the named “EXPERTS” remain the political and economic “Friends of Europe” (EU) and not its direct representatives from the National States- I am not optimistic about any valuable or pragmatic outcome.

    Who will be the strongest Nations (or groupings), institutions and individuals to emerge after this pandemic is finally over? Any guesses?

    Will they determine the future- or will old mistakes be repeated?

  2. avatar

    Tech is being used in multiple ways, from measuring the spread of the disease, to ensuring hospitals and doctors have access to the supplies they urgently need, and even to relieve us of the side effects of social distancing!

  3. avatar

    The WHO are using AI to run a chatbot to provide answers to questions frequently asked about coronavirus, such as current infection rates and what can be done to protect oneself.

  4. avatar

    I couldn’t do my job from home without fast speed broadband and apps like Zoom and Skype!

  5. avatar

    The teleworking boom predicted for the year 2000, has at last become a reality, but only because we have the connectivity and digital tools to do our jobs effectively.

  6. avatar

    At some point in this crisis governments will need to start tracking our movements to separate the immune from the vulnerable. Arguably a necessary evil, but still bye bye civil liberties…

  7. avatar
    Maria Teresa

    The real question is whether we’re ready to give up our privacy online to stop Covid?

  8. avatar

    Tech companies are already exploring ways to aggregate anonymized location information to health authorities determine the impact of social distancing or growth of hotspots, for example.

  9. avatar

    1) early identification and communication of any outbreak.
    2) tracking and tracing potential contacts using gps/bluetooth tech on smartphones.
    3) enforcing isolation of infected patients.
    Others will include home testing kits & notification to allow free travel/work etc.

  10. avatar

    Test, test test, and use of gloves and masks

  11. avatar

    Debating is all EU politicians do….for the rest the just wait and sleep

  12. avatar

    I’m not sure how technology can be used to stop the virus, but it’s definitely helping people stay connected during lockdown. Families dine together with relatives in distant cities, raising a glass to each other on camera. Even weddings are being held in VR!

  13. avatar
    Laura B

    I can’t see how a pandemic can possibly be fought on a global basis without big data analysis. The real question is how was this done at the time of the Spanish flu?

  14. avatar

    Online learning platforms are a godsend. My three children are able to connect with their teachers via live-streaming platforms and keep up their school work.

  15. avatar

    Within the first few weeks of the virus the genome had been sequenced and posted online for research labs across the world to trial new treatments. Big data rules!

  16. avatar

    I’m getting all my food delivered either via the Carrefour app or Deliveroo. At least I’m not mingling with other shoppers.

  17. avatar

    By first at all persuade Germany, österreich, and The Netherlands to be solidair with the countries of the South Italy and Spain ! Shame on Europe !

  18. avatar

    Alibaba has released an application that can help doctors to analyze lung X-rays to determine if a patient has COVID-19 within 20 seconds with an accuracy of 96%

  19. avatar

    I fully appreciate the value that aggregated anonymized information could provide in the fight against COVID-19, but I’m also fearful of the “Big Brother” effect that comes with it.

    • avatar

      It does all seem pretty “Orwellian”, but I don’t see another way of bringing all this to an end as soon as possible.

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