The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 has been a major disaster for the world. As demonstrated by measures taken in China, technologies can play an unparalleled role in the management of pandemics, and for the most part, for the better.
With the spread of the virus from Wuhan to all of China, the tracking of confirmed cases has gradually attracted the attention of the general public. In order to reduce the risk of potential onward infections with precision, China has utilized big data, artificial intelligence and other technological means for management of the virus. For example, Chinese internet enterprises have launched platforms to identify the location of confirmed cases and their close contacts, track their real-time status and dynamic trajectory, monitor any abnormal temperature changes of key workers, and give immediate early warnings to prevent the expansion of the epidemic. In severely affected areas, electronic devices are used to screen people with high temperatures remotely, using thermal imaging to warn potential cases from entering the community.
Big data technology is also being used in monitoring traffic flow, identifying vehicles entering and leaving the epidemic areas, building dynamic tracking models of the vehicles involved in the region. The collected data assists relevant departments to give early warnings, monitor the vehicles and related personnel, and make better decisions on traffic management and resource allocation, which helps to prevent and control the spread of the epidemic more effectively.
The use of intelligent robots is a constant cause for surprise to the citizens who live in China’s many cities. In hospitals, airports, stations and communities, intelligent robots are used to help distribute living supplies, medicine, food, patrol and disinfect for people, reducing human contact to the minimum. In areas under strict quarantine, intelligent robots patrol the streets, undertaking detection work 24 hours a day, asking people not to walk around and to go home. In terms of environmental sanitation, intelligent robots provide a powerful service through the combination of cleaning and spraying disinfectant liquid.
In the process of diagnosis and treatment, remote consultation systems have been rapidly implemented in hospitals all over the country thanks to the 5G technology. Through remote consultation systems, experts from the best hospitals are able to provide treatment guidance to patients from hospitals in remote areas, which demonstrates the far-reaching impact of technology to mobilize medical resources to supplement the needs of other places.
With the help of 5G technology, China’s online education industry is booming in the context of nationwide quarantine. Soon after the announcement of the Ministry of Education to close schools without the suspension of teaching, students of all grades and levels began to take real-time online courses, interact with their tutors and classmates in virtual classrooms, do homework and take exams online.
Although these developments raise many questions with regard to privacy, security and governance, they have also undeniably been innovative, imaginative, and fostered optimism in the face of disaster. From security to logistics, to healthcare and education, the power of science and technology has brought unexpected benefits to the health and safety of thousands of people’s lives. We look forward to ongoing discussions about how technology and AI policy should be developed in light of our most recent experiences, and welcome contact from interested academics.