Covid-19: Technology Opportunities

Vimal Ramachandran, Director

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The COVID-19 outbreak has brought about rapid changes around the world which has compelled governments to take drastic measures to contain its spread. Even though it has been creating havoc to people and businesses, it has also created numerous opportunities for one sector in general, and that is technology.

Technology Opportunities

  • The rise of mobile and VoIP applications
  • Data Protection
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cybersecurity
  • Technology Contracts
  • Innovation
  • Increased online media consumption
  • E-gaming

The rise of mobile and VoIP applications

The pandemic has forced numerous cities all over the world to enter into a lockdown and during a time like this the only way for people to go on with their lives and businesses is to rely on technology. People have started to spend more time on mobile apps and calling apps are being used for videoconferencing to schedule work meetings, home schooling or just to catch up with friends and family. These requirements have prompted regulators to remove blockers to the deployment of these solutions.

In Oman, the restrictions on Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet were lifted by TRA and Qatar unblocked Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Webex.

The UAE TRA unblocked Microsoft Teams and Zoom VoIP applications to enable remote working and home schooling. The restrictions on VoIp was eased in collaboration with Etisalat and Du and this is just a temporary measure. The move has helped lessen the disruption to businesses and have also enabled some to use online platforms to deliver their services.

KSA had recently established Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), which hosted the Extraordinary Virtual G20 Summit. The Summit was successful in bringing together G20 leaders to discuss initiatives to combat the global spread o f the Covid-19.

Data Protection

Employers in the UAE can implement precautionary measures to protect their employees, but this must be done taking into consideration general provisions in the penal code and in the Constitution aimed at preserving the dignity and secrecy of an individual’s private life. For example, it may not be right to reveal the name of an employee who has contracted the virus. But, for the safety of others who have been close to this particular employee, disclosing the details might be deemed necessary.

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has issued a guidance note recently stating that a data controller can process personal data in cases of emergency. But this data will have to be processed fairly, lawfully and securely, and only if it is adequate, relevant and proportionate for the purposes for which it is being processed.

The UAE has two laws specifically for the protection of health data, the Federal Health Data Law and the Heath Care Data Protection Law in Dubai Health Care City (DHCC).

The law in DHCC is applicable for organizations incorporated there and it protects patient health information from being disclosed to third parties without their permission. But again, the data can be used if it is “necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to public health or public safety”. The Federal Health Care Law also follows the same principle.

Artificial Intelligence

Dubai police is using AL solutions to distinguish between vehicles that have movement permits or the ones that are used by people working for important sectors from vehicles of people in breach of the lockdown.

Etihad Airways is depending on technology and automation to screen passengers for signs of COVID-19. Various groups are bringing together AI experts to combat COVID-19. Many have made AI tools available for free and launched hackathons to galvanize a community of developers, researchers and scientists.

Cybersecurity

Corona-virus themed attacks have been on a rise, specifically in the form of phishing emails. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned people of phishing emails being sent in the name of the organization. 

It has become the need of the hour to reinforce the information security system of organizations and adopt advanced analytics platforms to detect and resolve vulnerabilities.

Technology Contracts

The pandemic has resulted in a major disruption to the global tech supply chain across different sectors and made us realize the need to leverage and embrace technologies such as 5G, smart city solutions, AI and IoT. This will help us meet future global challenges such as the need for smart tools to identify virus hotpots and the requirement for remote communication. One can expect a growth in the adoption of these innovative technologies across international markets.

From a legal perspective, clients should take into consideration current and future transactions. Care must be taken while drafting future IT contracts in a COVID-19 environment.

Innovation

It is during crises like these, people come up with innovations. The UAE Ministry of Health is collaborating with telecom operator Du to set u a virtual hospital, that will provide remote care to patients on a virtual basis with the help of smart monitors or AI devices. COVID-19 has prompted the country to come up with an innovation like this. The initiative enables healthcare professionals to see and communicate with their patients and gain access to their data.

Hospitals in UAE have implemented telemedicine services to help patients without exposing them to the infection.

In KSA, The Ministry of Health established an e-Health strategy that includes the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine falls under Saudi Telemedicine Network project, a collaboration with Canada Health Infoway and Ontario Telemedicine Network.

Increased online media consumption

There has been a significant growth in the use of online media ever since the pandemic outbreak. Global media streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had to reduce traffic and definition to reduce the pressure on telecom service providers. Twitch, a live-streaming platform owned by Amazon has reported a growth of 75 % in the number of hours watched while compared to the last quarter. MBC’s VoD platform (Shahid) also witnessed a massive growth in its number of users and hours.

E-gaming

Almost all sporting events in UAE and across the globe have been cancelled due to the pandemic and people have started resorting to e-sports. Major brands realized the increasing interest users started showing towards online sports and have started to pitch in. The industry will hopefully continue its successful journey even after the pandemic is over.

The pandemic has imposed serious challenges on mankind. Majority of the population is working from home and schooling is also being done remotely. Even after we combat the crisis, some of the changes are here to stay. If virtual business meetings were successful during this time, then why spent your time and money on travel after the world is free of corona? Companies can reduce costs to a large extend, without any negative impacts on businesses.

More businesses will start adopting cloud computing technologies which will help them reduce their spent on IT infrastructure and scale-up their operations.

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