Technology to fight virus gets fast-tracked


Drones that disinfect. Robots that talk. Artificial intelligence that can scan thousands of medical images in a flash.

These are just some of the technologies rolled out by Asian countries including Singapore and China to contain the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 6,500 people worldwide.

Technology powered by artificial intelligence (AI) is helping track the outbreak, clean hospitals, deliver supplies and develop vaccines, with Asian governments encouraging universities and corporations to expedite innovations.

“Sometimes the pace of innovation in emerging digital technologies can be held back by infrastructure, financing and bureaucratic constraints, ” said Jonathan Tanner, a digital consultant at the Overseas Development Institute think tank.

“When faced with a challenge like responding to the virus outbreak, there are strong incentives to overcome these constraints and put new technology to the test, ” he said.

In Singapore, where open government data has enabled detailed mapping of the outbreak, robots are delivering meals and medication to patients. Some can also talk.

In China, where the virus emerged last year, robots disinfect hospitals, drones are delivering medical supplies and AI is being used to sort scans to spot the infection.It is not surprising that these countries have pressed new technologies into use quickly, said Carolyn Bigg, a partner at law firm DLA Piper in Hong Kong.

“Countries such as Singapore and China want to be leaders in big data and analytics.

“They are showing how big data platforms can be mobilised quickly and transparently, and be a force for good, ” she said. — Reuters

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