Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations across the world began to shift into action. But as critical as it was to react appropriately, it was is also important to proactively prepare for the next phase.
“At Huawei, we are aware of the massive effect of the pandemic, as well as how seriously communities would be affected. However, we are also conscious that as well as protecting lives, we need to help lay the foundation for the next stage of society’s technological advancement – the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Chen Lei, President of Huawei Southern Africa Region wrote in a statement on Saturday, May 9, 2020.
“I’ve been inspired by a recent YouTube video of a young South African dancer Hlumelo, who has been under lockdown in his home township of Gugulethu. A member of the Zama Dance School, Hlumelo has not let the lockdown hold him back, and has continued practising his steps for the moment when he and his friends can perform together again,” he added.
Lei pointed out that during the Chinese lockdown, members of the Shanghai ballet continued to practise – wearing facemasks – for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake. They had taken precautions, but remained focused on the next phase of their development.
“This reminds me of a saying from a Chinese poem that ‘Good honing gives a sharp edge to a sword. Bitter cold adds keen fragrance to plum blossom’. It implies that preparation is essential to being effective, and that hardship can shape ultimate success. Indeed, chance favours the prepared mind,” Lei wrote.
He admitted that ICT had a great role to play in terms of keeping people connected during lockdown, quarantine and social isolation. But, he identified technology also as fundamental to economic recovery in Africa.
Since the start of the pandemic, the world has continued to grapple with shuttered schools and locked-down business, with conversations being dominated by how to reopen the economy. Lei wrote it had become increasingly clear that the way forward was not to rush back to the same busy, concentrated work and social environments.
“When we re-open, communities and workplaces will have to continue practising social distancing. We will continue to rely on high-speed connectivity to bind us together. In many cases, ICT networks support the fight against the coronavirus, but also the evolution of human society itself,” Lei stated.
During the pandemic, Huawei after securing its personnel and operations moved to support business partners on the African continent through core competencies in the ICT sector.
“We were fortunate to be able to assist with social distancing by African organisations through our technologies.
“The video conferencing systems we provided in some African countries enabled information sharing domestically and experience exchange internationally between epidemic prevention experts in China and Africa,” the statement read in part.
Huawei’s remote videoconferencing systems have helped medical institutions communicate more efficiently. Other than that, moved to implement AI-based diagnosis solution in several medical institutions. CT scan reviews can now be completed in two minutes, 80 per cent faster, in a race with time, critical for
Lei assured that Huawei would continue to employ core information and communication capabilities to support the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic Africa.
A new business model is taking shape across sectors, one characterised by remote work, distance education, remote healthcare, online shopping and mobile money. These business models span transportation, security, finance, medicine, education and entertainment.
“When the dust settles, and we begin to arrive at the much-heralded “new normal”, we will have seen the immense potential for ICT to build social cohesion,” Lei noted.
This new paradigm has been driven vastly by greater data consumption, facilitated by the mass connectivity of 4G/5G technology.
Governments have come to understand the need to prioritise ICT as a basic necessity. As a recent white paper noted, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen 5G transform healthcare response mechanisms to become digital, accurate and smart.
The pandemic has brought home to policymakers the importance of ICT in national development. This is likely to accelerate the establishment of national data centres, optical fibre networks and
communication base stations.
Lei noted that this kind of “big network” deployment also presented a historic opportunity for Africa to catch up with, and overtake other nations in terms of human development and quality of life for all its citizens.
“We are seeing the first signs of digital transformation not just in healthcare systems, but across entire economies, and society itself,” Lei stated.
He stated that ICT platforms are likely to provide the foundation of Africa’s future economy, further noting that the key was to continue honing and perfecting them, expanding their use facilitate quick economic recovery when the lockdowns seize.
“As the old poem notes, good honing does indeed give a sharp edge to a sword. Like Hlumelo and the dancers of the Shanghai ballet, we should spend this time honing our abilities. When the new dawn arrives – as it surely will – let it find us well prepared to seize the day!” the statement concluded.