The world is ailing. And it is ailing in a way that none of us in this generation has ever seen before. COVID-19 has turned just about every aspect of life upside down. There are winners and losers in all this, the biggest losers obviously being families that have lost loved ones. There are countries that have lost some of their best researchers and medics in the fight. There are communities that have lost their social glue and there are economies that are facing the very real threat of collapse. The long and short of it is that COVID-19 is so big that nothing will ever be the same again.
Looking on the brighter side, it is from extreme adversity that we mend extremely and come out stronger. As bad as this pandemic has and continues to be, there is some good coming out of it. The human spirit of resilience and innate love and need for connection with one another are shining through the muck.
Families and individuals who are stuck in separate locations have continued to connect and encourage each other through these unprecedented times. We’ve seen a new crop of comedians on Tik Tok who have kept us laughing a good one in these dark and often boring times, as well as beauty enthusiasts perfecting their make-up skills and tagging one another to take the #Dontrushchallenge online. We have also seen readers unearth their books, read up, and share their reading lists with fellow readers online.
The world has collectively stopped to smell the roses and share virtual love with complete strangers.
We have also taken time to appreciate the power of ICT which has powered most of our days and work. In the words of Chen Lei – the President of Huawei Southern Africa Region for example, “when the dust settles, and we begin to arrive at the much-heralded “new normal”, we will have seen the immense potential for ICT to build social cohesion”.
As a touching example, Chen Lei further goes to highlight this young South African dancer Hlumelo who has been under lockdown in his home township of Gugulethu. Hlumelo is a member of the Zama Dance School and since he cannot go practicing with fellow members, he has continued perfecting his art on his own so that when he and his friends can finally perform together again, he will not be rusty.
Chen Lei also points us to the Shanghai Ballet whose members continued to practice for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake through the Chinese lockdowns. This was of course subject to necessary safety measures. They took precautions, but remained focused on the next phase of their development. What this shows us is that as much as we may not feel like it at the moment, there is life after COVID-19.
There are education systems and economies to grow and the leading lights in tech are sharply aware of how much the world looks up-to them to help lay the foundation for the next stage of society’s massive technological needs. And how they must stay on toes so that after the dust settles and the next phase comes knocking, they will not let the world down.
Not only has ICT been crucial in keeping people connected during lockdown, quarantine, and social isolation, it will also be one of the strongest pillars for recovery of economies and policymakers are not blind to that fact. Governments are well aware of the massive levels of technology required to mend their countries’ supply chains, healthcare, education, manufacturing and agricultural sectors which will be left in shreds by this pandemic.
In Africa for example, we expect to see more optic fiber networks, communication base stations and national data centres as we embrace the revamped information age more and more. These developments are crucial for the readiness that the continent requires to not only catch up in terms of ICT, but also to overtake other nations. All this will of course be for the good of the African people as it will equip us to better fight it out with the “big boys” for better quality of life.
As a shining example, one sector that never went down for a minute is healthcare and Africa has not been left behind. Huawei has enabled remote video conferencing systems that have helped medical institutions aroud the continent communicate more efficiently. Some African countries have not only been kept in touch domestically, but in communication with epidemic prevention experts in China thanks to these facilities.
Huawei has also implemented an AI-based diagnosis solution in several medical institutions and speeded up things in the health sector. In a race against time to save lives for instance, CT scan reviews can now be completed in two minutes, which is 80% faster.
These kinds of speed, performance, and data consumption come with the need for mass connectivity which will best be carried on 4G/5G technology. Not only has this been crucial in the fight against COVID-19, it will continue to be a strong player in rebuilding systems and ushering the world into the next phase.
When it comes to the amount of work ahead of Governments in stringing their economies together when the dust settles, huge is an understatement. The manpower, blood and sweat required will be massive. And so will technology. Chance favours the prepared mind and like Hlumelo and the dancers of the Shanghai Ballet who started rehearsing in mid February, we should spend this time honing our abilities so that when the new dawn arrives, as it surely will, it will find us well prepared to seize the day.