Connecting Where It Counts When Disaster Strikes
The world has been left reeling by the latest strain of coronavirus – COVID-19. History may well record the virus, and its management, as the first pandemic of the digital age.
While this particular strain thankfully has a lower fatality rate than the earlier strains of SARS and MERS, it’s proven more contagious and has taken more lives. That makes the bravery of those at the frontlines – the doctors and nurses, especially in Wuhan, who are chronically overworked, who are risking their lives, and who have given their lives to treat the ill – all the more remarkable and humbling. The same goes for the bravery of the volunteers driving medical staff to hospitals in Wuhan, the security staff giving temperature checks at entry points in buildings across China, and the drivers transporting busloads of people to quarantine centers in various nations.
Disasters often bring out the best in people and inspire us to come together, which is of course how we should tackle any crisis. Either individually or collectively, we must all strive to give what support we can.
So, what can our business do in an epidemic? How can ICT contribute? We aren’t at the frontlines, we aren’t taking the risks that many people are. But ICT still has a role to play. At a basic level, digital connectivity is helping to make the management and containment of the virus more efficient. Apps and network connectivity are ensuring that food supplies reach the homes of hundreds of millions of house-bound Chinese each day. Self-reporting of health status, getting information about the condition, and receiving guidance on handling the virus are digitalized in a way that we’ve never seen before.
Back to Health
To accommodate the rapid rise in infections, Huoshenshan hospital was built in Wuhan in just ten days. Hospitals have to be well-connected for day-to-day functions as well as for the kind of services that an outbreak of an infectious disease benefits greatly from, like data collection, remote diagnosis, and remote monitoring – things that can reduce person-to-person contact, boost communication speed, and drive up treatment efficacy and outcomes.
Our role in the new hospital in Wuhan was to deploy its 5G network, including network planning, survey, design, laying fiber, deploying base stations, and commissioning. We did this with 300 staff in three days, so that – for obvious reasons – the hospital could get up and running as soon as possible. In another Wuhan hospital, we’re supporting local operators in delivering 5G and guaranteeing high-speed Internet access.
Back to Business
COVID-19 hasn’t just put lives at stake, it’s also jeopardizing livelihoods in China. And it’s likely that it will hit the global economy hard, with some sources forecasting up to US$1 trillion in losses. Here in Shenzhen, many restaurants, shops, businesses, and schools have remained shut since Chinese New Year started in late January.
However, ICT is connecting people with the food delivery apps that bring food to people.
The way we’re helping is by offering the use of Huawei Cloud to SMEs for free in China. Huawei Cloud WeLink is an intelligent and collaborative work platform that provides a range of functions, including instant messaging, electronic whiteboard for remote collaboration, and mobile approval processes. Its video conferencing function lets companies with fewer than 1,000 employees open free online accounts and run real-time online meetings with up to 100 participants. These functions can help keep businesses up and running online, particularly smaller businesses that are less able to weather a protracted event that keeps workers at home.
Currently, Huawei Cloud WeLink is serving more than 10,000 healthcare centers, hospitals, government departments, and schools and training centers.
Back to School
Also launched by Huawei Cloud, the Learn Anytime Education Alliance includes more than 100 partners in the field of education. It’s designed to provide online teaching and learning services for primary and secondary schools, training centers, and higher education. To date, the platform has served millions students and our hope is that its availability now can help minimize the impact of COVID-19 on students across China.
Healthcare and education are two of the four pillars in the Huawei digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL, our long-term commitment to investing and partnering up on a series not-for-profit projects to ensure that digital technology leaves no one behind. Equally, connectivity and business enablement are core aspects of our day-to-day business.
A virus doesn’t have borders and neither does the fight against it. All we can do is continue to help minimize the impact of the virus on life and business in the way we know how – technology.