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Better policy on digitalization a chance to step up

COVID 19 (coronavirus) pandemic has affected almost all countries and has made a significant effect on all the aspects of the life, every filed and business including healthcare facilities and treatment systems. It is obvious that in current age and time, there is a requirement for the introduction of various advance technologies to tackle various problems related to this pandemic. It is being said that a fourth industrial revolution is fast approaching once COVID-19 is over, which will include advance manufacturing and information technologies to fulfil the customized requirements of different areas. These technologies will also provide wireless connectivity in the manufacturing and service sector to enhance automation. Once this is implemented; we will see various technologies inter-connected, healthcare professionals would be even connected through remotely, operations in hospitals would be done remotely and necessary actions would be taken with lesser human physical involvement.

Moreover, machines would be supported by wireless connectivity and sensors. These sensors would be connected to a system that can visualize and monitor the entire production line and can also make its own decisions. It would not be limited to manufacturing only; we would see advancement in supply chain and supply of equipment and goods as well. In short, an entire new system will be in place globally and only those countries will be considered in new league that will have better hygiene practices, which can only be possible with the usage of technology and digitalization.

It is expected that in the coming months, businesses even in Pakistan are going to become more reliant than ever on their digital strategy. It can even be a deciding factor in various aspects therefore, Pakistan should be ready for that time. We are in uncertain times, but with the increase of remote working where companies are turning to digital channels and are in transformation in most of the countries. It is observed that there is a real spike during the last few months on creating or updating websites, launching new e-commerce platforms and creating social media campaigns focused on work from home matters.

Pakistan has suffered badly due to COVID-19. Exact loss of lives and loss of business is difficult to determine at this stage but it would be determined with accuracy in the coming months. Pakistan’s biggest challenge is how to modernize its system. The cost of digitalization would be massive and Pakistan is already struggling to revive its economy. But at the same time, it is one of the best opportunities Pakistan has gotten in recent years, it is the right time to re-start the system.

Digitalization is a challenge for a country like Pakistan but can be done, if startups are given an opportunity to take the lead in this field. In Pakistan, new technologies should have the capability of providing better digital solutions for the daily lives during and after this crisis. Various benefits of this new Industry revolution for mitigating effects of COVID-19 pandemic in health sector at the stage can be as follows:

  • Planning of activities regarding COVID-19
  • Providing a better experience without imposing the risks to
  • Planning of the activities in respect of COVID-19
  • Providing a better service without imposing further risk to healthcare and other workers
  • Development and utilization of robotic based treatment of the infected patient to reduce doctor’s risk
  • Promote a flexible working environment of treatment

Resultantly, these digital technologies will help people to perform daily life work during the lockdown. Once healthcare facilities are improved then it can provide several innovations with the help of advanced manufacturing and digital technologies.

Federal and provincial governments are the first responders to the COVID-19 crisis and are playing an essential role in providing public service provisions, including supporting to the most vulnerable populations (EHSAAS Program/BISP) of the living in informal settlements or slums within and around cities as well as older persons, women, and children.

Technology can be useful and will be a necessary tool to help ensure that governments continue to provide essential services during the COVID-19 crisis. As coronavirus continues to spread around the country, provincial governments have put in place certain restrictions on the movement of people, the functioning of services, and rules on physical distancing. Social distancing is a new norm and shaking hand will defiantly be out of custom soon. Within this context, technology can have a profound effect on people’s daily lives where governments can ensure access to health services, access to information, and communication with relevant authorities.

 

Prime Minister recently told that federal government being on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis is actively using digital technologies to monitor, anticipate and influence the spread of the disease, as well as providing advisory to provinces and to the general public in relation to lock down or smart lockdown. In developed countries; it is being said that digital technologies currently under use for tracking COVID-19 patients or potential patients will compromise privacy of people but for countries like Pakistan, it might not be an issue.

Overall, technology can be vital in protecting communities in the aftermath of the crisis and digital tools can ensure that citizen’s rights are being protected and can also promote much needed transformation to achieve the development goals. As the demand for digital technologies grows, federal government is increasingly committed to improving the lives of the people. Federal government can play a crucial role in shaping digital technologies in Pakistan in a way that ensures transparent, open and inclusive decision-making processes.

Another area where Pakistan can effectively use the technology and that can be applied in improving the disaster response, adapt or invest in medical devices, tests, and protective gears. In addition; a lot of technology based startup companies are entering into the sector which can help improving the overall situation. Most of the people now have the smart phone and in coming years, usage will further increase. Therefore, with the availability of 4G and high speed Wifi, there can be a possibility that people will use various online apps. Recently, a new startup company has launched its app where doctor can visit a patient at his home instead of patient visiting the hospital. These things might sound small but in coming weeks and months, people will realize how to utilize their time better rather than wasting on waiting for a doctor’s appointment, while on other, new business will emerge and would provide job opportunities. Such small things can make a big difference.

Technological advancement can best be used in the education sector. Pakistan should seriously evaluate its education sector, online education should be encouraged and that is only possible if credibility is given to online education. Higher Education Commission (HEC) should form a protocol for online education and certification. The coronavirus pandemic has become a push factor that can help everyone to better understand that how to manage online classes and manage final exams, whereas online academic jobs are as good as those conducted in on-campus. There is no doubt that online classes are a challenge for both teachers and students. Not all students can afford the smart phones and computers therefore, government should redesign curriculum for the students where they can cover the loss of their time. However, digitalization in higher education can allow streaming lectures online or enables professors and students to interact in the virtual environments but not everyone is ready for this in Pakistan.

There are areas where internet is not available all the time and students feel difficulty in getting online classes. At the same time, we see even those young people who do not spend much time in the “real life” and rather prefer playing video games or interacting with others on social media platforms confess that they would have preferred being lectured in real classrooms and in real universities. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing which forced to close the universities can help cut the time spent on endless department, faculty, or other university activities.

Government of Pakistan should announce a policy for digitalization and should also announce some special incentives for IT and engineering sectors so that skilled people could start their own businesses, which will ultimately lift the economy.

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