The incidence of COVID-19, the global pandemic which has already claimed the lives of at least 310,000 people and infected 4.6 million, might encourage a turning point in the areas where focus is placed in matters of scientific and technological development across the globe. Hopefully, the COVID-19 evil deed is done, but as we try to pick up the pieces, it is important to acknowledge the bright side of the pandemic and exploit the lessons learned.
I have already written in this column in Daily Trust on how the focus we have placed on Internet and Information technology in the past two decades has not helped much in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, we need to re-examine our priorities in matters of Internet and Information technology, and this applies to all countries of the world. In this regard, I am pleased to acknowledge the posture of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) and the National Information Technology Agency (NITDA).
I have alluded to the existential factors in a past article on COVID-19, vis-à-vis the responsive technologies. On existentialism, I am referring to humans’ ability to continue to live on this planet earth. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of events that can end or seriously disrupt our existence on earth: hunger, disease, and a disruption of the astrophysical balances that exist in our solar system or universe. By “disruption of the balance” in our solar system or universe, I mean the effects that human activities could have on the environment – global warming, ozone layer depletion, and the like; as well as the possible “natural” disruption in the balance that normally exists among the components of our galaxy or universe, about which we know very little. Imagine, for example, that the relation between the earth and the other planets in the solar system is somehow disrupted, for example, if the magnitude of the earth’s gravitational acceleration (pull) of a body, which, currently, is approximately equal to 9.8 meters per second-squared, is changed for some reasons, only God can predict where the earth, and therefore, humans, will end up.
However, this aspect of human existence is really not a problem since it is beyond the control of humans, meaning that it is not something that you or I can do anything about, even though its occurrence could lead to the end of human life on earth! That leaves hunger, disease pandemic, and our treatment of the earth’s atmosphere as the areas where we humans can intervene.
Regarding hunger, I am hopeful that humans can resolve this if they can continue to inhabit the earth without the other issues. This leaves disease pandemic and atmospheric pollution as the areas where we need to place our focus and obtain results that are more relevant to our lives than most of the current products of Internet technology (Social Media, and the like).
To be sure, COVID-19 has a bright side and has brought certain opportunities. On the bright side, we have more time on our hands to spend on developing useful things. With the lockdown, the time that would have normally been spent going to the theater, restaurant, bar, sports, festivals, concerts, birthdays, and attending “street-blocking” Nigerian parties, can now be spent on more useful undertakings. We also are more able to reflect on what is truly important in our lives. I have written about this in connection with COVID-19 in a recent article in Daily Trust. The lockdown resulting from the pandemic has exposed the vanity in our lives – especially in the US, where people place too much importance on their skin color and appearance! For a change, it is nice to see how people look without heavy cosmetics!
The lockdown also means fewer, useless meetings at work. Time together with family is also not a bad thing, especially when young children are involved. The pandemic has also encouraged speed and alacrity in our pace to innovate. Procrastination-be-gone, that is.
Another interesting benefit of COVID-19 is the acceptance of science. When COVID-19 first surfaced, the president of the US, Mr. Donald J. Trump, called the event a hoax, not unlike his disposition toward global warming. Now with so many fatalities from the pandemic, the science is real! Also, on the bright side of COVID-19 is the emergence of numerous scientific and technological, research-focused funding opportunities, that have opened, which were not available before.
Professor Adesina Sodiga, the president of NCS, has alluded to the opportunities brought about by COVID-19 in his address in the May 2020 issue of e-Voice, the monthly magazine of NCS. According to Professor Sodiga: “The current development has opened our eyes to information technology-based platforms such as teleworking (e-working), e-learning, and crowdsourcing.” Dr. Sodiga also advises you to avoid going to places that expose you to human contact, such as open markets, malls, banks, ATM spots, and so on. “Alternatives to carrying out these day-to-day activities without human contact are highly sought after, and the good news is that we can leverage ICT.”
The COVID-19 inspired opportunities include new developments in the health technology industry, telemedicine, and improved videoconferencing tools and technologies for tracing the spread of a pandemic. Being forced to be comfortable and more proficient in using e-learning tools is certainly an advantage.