ICT has been critical to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and transforming society over the long term. But the key to progress is laying the foundation for constant evolution.
As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought the globe to a near standstill, technology is emerging as fundamental to economic recovery for African states.
Already, technology has shown how vital it is when the African Union (AU) member states represented by their respective heads of state held a video conference to discuss the way forward during and post the pandemic.
However, according to the President of Huawei Southern Africa Region Chen Lei, the key to progress is in laying a strong foundation for constant evolution.
“We understand that ICT has a great role to play in terms of keeping us all connected during lockdown, quarantine and social isolation. But technology is also fundamental to economic recovery for Africa,” Lei opines.
“Now that we have spent several weeks with shuttered schools and locked-down business, our conversation is turning to how to reopen the economy. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the way to do that is not to rush back to the same busy, concentrated work and social environments we had before.”
When the coronavirus will have been defeated, businesses, schools, hospitals, hotels and the whole economic wheel will be re-started but this, will still be in strict adherence of measures like social distancing at the workplace to avoid the risk of re-infection and thus, technology will still be highly depended on.
In his own words, Lei says that he has been greatly inspired by a recent YouTube video of a young South African dancer, Hlumelo who is a member of the Zama Dance School, who has been under lockdown in his home township of Gugulethu. But has not let the lockdown rob him of his prize and has been practising his steps for the moment until when he and his friends can perform together again.
In China, members of the Shanghai ballet continued to practice – wearing facemasks – for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake. They took precautions but remained focused on the next phase of their development.
All these, Lei says, reminds him of a saying from a Chinese poem that “Good honing gives a sharp edge to a sword. Bitter cold adds keen fragrance to plum blossom”. It implies that preparation is essential to being effective, and that hardship can shape ultimate success. Indeed, chance favours the prepared mind.
With this, according to Lei, there will be continued reliance on high-speed connectivity, networks to support the fight against the pandemic as well as the evolution of the human society as a whole.
African states are lucky as the giant firm has already acquired the know-how through technology as it provided the best avenue for the population to observe and maintain social distancing through its effective technology.
This is the technology that was used by some African organisations and through Huawei’s core competencies, it was able to be at the forefront in fighting the spread and effects while offering a platform to get solutions to the deadly disease.
“The video conferencing systems we provided in some African countries enabled information sharing domestically and experience exchange internationally between epidemic prevention experts in China and Africa.
“Our remote videoconferencing systems have helped medical institutions communicate more efficiently. We have also implemented an AI-based diagnosis solution in several medical institutions. CT scan reviews can now be completed in two minutes, 80% faster, in a race with time, critical for saving lives,” reveals Lei.
Khusoko understands that Huawei is set to continue using its core information and communication capabilities to support the continent’s efforts to fight the disease.
Huawei looks forward to seeing a cohesive society build on the tenets of ICT.
This is already taking shape in Kenya as most schools jump onto offering digital learning to its learners besides other concerned citizens offering the same on their respective social media platform and this has seen thousands of Kenyans from different parts of the country coming together to follow these initiatives.
In central Kenya, doctors are using technology to exchange notes with their counterparts from as far as India while attending to cancer patients who cannot travel outside the country due to travel restrictions.
There has been, also, an upsurge in the use of digital payments for goods and services across the country as Kenyans discarded hard-cash and this has also been possible because of technology.
This new paradigm is driven by vastly greater data consumption, facilitated by the mass connectivity of 4G/5G technology, Lei believes.
“Governments are coming to understand the need to prioritise ICT as a basic necessity. As a recent white paper noted, the Covid-19 pandemic is seeing 5G transform healthcare response mechanisms to become digital, accurate and smart,” he says.
With this in mind, governments are likely to hasten the establishment of national data centers, optical fibre networks as well as communication base stations.
This kind of “big network” deployment also presents a historic opportunity for Africa to use ICT to catch up with and overtake other nations in terms of human development and quality of life for all its citizens.
“ICT platforms are likely to provide the foundation of Africa’s future economy. The key is to continue honing and perfecting them, expanding their use even now, so that once the lockdown ends, we can recover more quickly,” Lei argues.
As the old poem notes, good honing does indeed give a sharp edge to a sword. Like Hlumelo and the dancers of the Shanghai ballet, we should spend this time honing our abilities. When the new dawn arrives – as it surely will – let it find us well prepared to seize the day!