From chatbots in Singapore to drones in Oman; from robotic medical assistants in Indonesia to virtual doctors in Brazil; while the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the world, governments have been working hard to implement digital solutions to minimize the adverse impact of the virus and to ensure business continuity.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technologies have enabled governments to connect with people and to continue to deliver services online,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin. “In many countries digital government has stepped up its central role as a necessary element of communication, leadership and collaboration between policy makers and society,” he said.
In a quick call for inputs by UN DESA, government officials from around the world, shared more than 500 COVID-19 related digital applications that they have been using during the pandemic. These can now be found in the “Compendium of Digital Government Initiatives in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” launched on 6 October 2020 by UN DESA.
In the compendium, readers will learn how governments have been using campaigns and chatbots to provide reliable information about the virus and to combat fake news, disinformation and viral hoaxes.
Due to the lack of medical personnel and capacity in hospitals, health apps have provided people with tools to self-assess their health status and for doctors to remotely monitor the wellbeing of their patients. In Croatia, the digital assistant “Andrija” used artificial intelligence to process thousands of health requests via a government portal and social media.
Digital technologies have also been used for contact tracing, allowing both health authorities and people to be informed about cases and trace down contacts of infected people to test for the virus. To promote social distancing, some governments used robots, drones, self-help temperature scanners, and contactless infrared thermometers.
Qatar deployed security robots to perform patrols in both residential and public areas to educate people on the importance of preventing gatherings and limit the spread of the virus. In Singapore, an artificial powered thermal scanner SPOTON was developed to set up mass temperature screening systems. Kuwait Health Ministry has been using an app named "Shlonik" to follow up on the repatriated citizens from abroad who are in mandatory home quarantine. A mobile application served as a travelling permission platform for Malaysians wishing to travel across states during the curfew.
Peoples’ expectations of governments have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and they will likely remain high in the post-pandemic era. As policy makers respond and use digital technologies to achieve their development goals, they should not forget addressing heightened concerns over data protection, privacy, misinformation and disinformation.
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