Life goes on, thanks to various mobile apps

Fog of disinfectant: Workers wearing protective suits and masks disinfecting a residential compound in Taiyuan, Shanxi province in China. — Reuters

BEIJING: Technology has come in handy for the people to obtain information on the deadly Covid-19 (novel coronavirus).

A series of mobile applications has been launched to provide updates on the outbreak and also detect if one has come in close contact with anyone infected.

The apps come in various versions with different providers.

They carry information on places those infected have visited before their diagnosis, the public transport networks they used, as well as residential and commercial areas with confirmed cases.

One of the apps, literally translated as Ride with a Patient, was provided by the Chinese government with support from its transportation agencies.

Users can key in their names and identity card numbers to track if they have shared a train or aircraft with an infected patient over the past 14 days.

However, this app is only available for Chinese citizens.

Other apps reveal dates, destinations, train or flight numbers involving Covid-19 patients.

Social app WeChat, which is installed in almost every Chinese smartphone, provides real-time updates on the virus outbreak.

Details include the number of confirmed and suspected cases, deaths and recoveries in the cities and provinces.

There are also apps that enable users to check if they are at risk of contracting the virus by being at the same locations with the patients.

The user only has to choose the province, city and district which they want to check.

The results would also be shown on a map with the marked locations.

Meanwhile, technology has also enabled people around Asia to work from outside their offices due to being self-quarantined.

Online platform tools such as Alibaba’s DingTalk, Tencent’s WeChat Work, Slack Technologies’ Slack, as well as project management apps, have assisted corporate employees as well as educators to work remotely.

The Chinese government instructed its people to work from home to prevent the spread of the virus while the Hong Kong government announced that its civil servants would do the same.

In Singapore, several private companies have followed suit by allowing its employees to work from home.

Kevin Lim, a human resources practitioner with 10 years’ experience, said Internet connectivity and work mobility enabled work-from-home arrangements to function well.

He said maturity of employees, professional work ethics and level of trust were essential for remote working arrangements.

“Employees are more into email and web-based applications. So, as long as they have a login ID and a password, they are able to log in to these applications and perform their work.

“However, it also depends on the kind of job scope or portfolio they are doing or managing.

“Certain roles or jobs cannot be performed remotely, like front-desk officers. Academicians can conduct online learning where both lecturers and students log in to ‘open learning’, which is a type of web-based application.

“They can attend a virtual lecture or tutorial through this platform, ” he said yesterday.

In Beijing, China Daily reported that an app developed by the Beijing High People’s Court enabled court trials to go on via a video communication system.

The app, Yunshenpan, which means “trial in the cloud”, dealt with simple lawsuits and helped to prevent trial delays.

In Hong Kong, technological advances have also assisted educators to continue to provide lessons to students.

This follows the suspension of schools in the city from late January to at least March 16.

According to Bloomberg, DingTalk has allowed educators to live-stream lessons as well as conduct online testing and grading while WeChat Work enabled educators to live-stream lessons in group chats.

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