Health and Healthcare Systems

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help us beat COVID-19

A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC243F9ECYR0

From Big Data to AI, the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are being put to use to combat the pandemic Image: REUTERS

David Alexander Walcott
Founder and Managing Partner, Novamed
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Data Science is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Data Science

  • China, South Korea and Taiwan are just some of the places using Big Data, AI and other emerging technologies to manage the effects and mitigate the risks of COVID-19;
  • Jamaica and several countries in continental Africa offer good examples of leadership approaches that have helped at this time of crisis;
  • In those nations where Fourth Industrial Revolution technology is not yet available, sound leadership is of paramount importance.

As global COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the unmatched connectivity that defines our era serves as both bane and blessing. Our interconnected livelihoods allow for the rapid spread of both disease and cure.

Have you read?

We must embrace the tools of tomorrow to defend the security of our future, and good leadership is needed now more than ever.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution gives us the tools we need to battle this global threat

Our ability to create a dynamic and interconnected framework of health data has never been more necessary. Taiwan, which has managed to successfully quell its caseload, has adopted a highly data-driven approach to battling COVID-19. Taking advantage of big data, they have created heavily resourced databases to track and predict infectious risk used in conjunction with extensive airport screening protocols. Mobile tracking has also been used to ensure high-risk individuals are quarantined at home, effectively enforcing social-distancing.

Similar tools, involving the mapping of potential carriers, have also been used in Singapore and South Korea. Other countries are invited to strongly consider their utility in flattening the proverbial curve.

Loading...

Artificial intelligence (AI) has also been of great use in enabling states to manage their caseload. Notwithstanding privacy concerns, analysis of personal, travel and clinical data allows for accurate predictive modelling that can inform infectious and mortality risk assessments. Furthermore, AI can be a valuable triage tool through virtual chatbots, a considerably important resource in scenarios of high clinical demand.

Several AI models have been used in China to increase diagnostic rates by interpreting radiographic results in a fraction of the time required for human intervention, thereby filling gaps resulting from unavailable clinical expertise. China has also harnessed the power of robots and drones, which have proven instrumental in reducing interpersonal contact by facilitating the delivery of food and medication and the disinfection of public spaces.

These tools of tomorrow have considerably enabled and enhanced our efforts in this global response, but good execution must be balanced by good strategy. Countries that are unable to immediately harness the capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution must rely on swift and strategic action.

If we do not have the tools of tomorrow, we must have the leadership of today

Having been rapidly thrust into uncharted waters, our current reality calls for responsible leadership. COVID-19 has immediately altered the ways in which we live, work and relate to our surroundings, and the ability to adapt, engage and inspire through a crisis is more important than ever before.

Leadership through COVID-19 has often taken the form of responsive and decisive action. Like China, the Czech Republic swiftly implemented universal use of masks in conjunction with lockdown efforts, successfully driving a flattening of the curve. Jamaica, a dot on the global map, has implemented swift and strategic measures to contain the virus through early public sensitization and the thorough pursuit of health literacy en masse. In addition to strict and early social measures, clinical resources have been rapidly procured and early case recognition has been strongly prioritized through a commendable level of forethought.

Loading...

Several other Caribbean islands (particularly the Cayman Islands and St. Vincent & the Grenadines) have stayed ahead of the curve by preparing themselves for COVID-19 before the reality of the threat approached their shores. Like Jamaica, they have been quick to implement curfews to mitigate community transmission and have communicated rapidly, transparently and thoroughly. These measures have put Jamaica on the global map in the COVID battle and its efforts have been publicly acknowledged by the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Several countries in continental Africa have been particularly proactive in responding to COVID-19. Senegal and Nigeria, with the scars of the Ebola outbreak etched in their recent memory, have readily and rapidly responded to COVID by strategically prioritizing aggressive testing. South Africa has embraced drive-through testing as an intelligent means of expediting diagnostic efforts.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

In Oceania, Australia has demonstrated a high level of proactivity in implementing aggressive isolation protocols that have been largely successful in keeping viral spread at bay. Such measures were also quickly implemented by Singapore and South Korea which, though supported by high levels of technological capability, serve as exemplars of leadership through a crisis that must be acknowledged.

We must do what we can with what we have in this COVID-19 fight

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has equipped society with highly potent tools and we must harness their capabilities, where possible, to win this fight. However, they cannot replace sound leadership. Leadership has emerged as a vital tool in states that have naïve technological infrastructures in healthcare and are forced to follow the eminent guiding words of Theodore Roosevelt in “doing what they can, with what they have”.

Where our leaders simply do not have the hands of technology to combat this threat, they must have the heart, brain, muscle, nerve and soul – elements of leadership as described by the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. They may very well be our saviour in this fight for humanity.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsFourth Industrial RevolutionLeadershipEmerging Technologies
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

This Earth Day we consider the impact of climate change on human health

Shyam Bishen and Annika Green

April 22, 2024

2:12

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum