COVID-19 SPECIAL: The View From Asia

Jumping on the tech bandwagon after Covid-19

If there is indeed a "Covid-19 dividend", it is perhaps the opportunity for a data-driven revolution for a better future.
If there is indeed a "Covid-19 dividend", it is perhaps the opportunity for a data-driven revolution for a better future.PHOTO: REUTERS

Asia News Network commentators highlight future tech opportunities as Covid-19 increases digitalisation. Here are excerpts.

Allow for data collaboration

Titon Mitra

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines

In a matter of months, more than five million people have been infected, hundreds of thousands have died, health systems have been overwhelmed, economies have been decimated, and the social fabric of countries has been stretched to the point of tearing. But this crisis also presents an unprecedented choice for development. The response to the coronavirus pandemic is arguably the most digitally enabled in history, with innovations supporting disease surveillance, providing information to citizenry, enabling teleworking and facilitating online collaboration and learning, and making social relief payments at immense scale possible.

In the Philippines, existing approaches for monitoring impact and efficacy are not at the scale required to enable well-informed systemic change.

It does not have to be this way. There is an immense amount of administrative and high-frequency data available that can be used.

There are also honed methods for scraping this data and mature frameworks for structuring them in meaningful ways. We need to converge these frameworks, data streams and standards, to make better sense and guide an effective response and shape our desired future.

Covid-19, for all its deleterious effects, can provide the stimulus for data collaborations to chart the way forward to the "new normal". Now is the time to bring together government, industry, social media, non-profit organisations and researchers under a common platform to collect, ingest and analyse, with the aid of artificial intelligence and predictive software, a wide array of data and translate these into evidence-based policies and programmes.

Data collaborations, enabled by technology, can help us accelerate towards a dramatically different, equitable and sustainable world. If there is indeed a "Covid-19 dividend", it is perhaps the opportunity for a data-driven revolution for a better future.

Time to exploit online learning

Rahmad Budi Harto

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

The diffusion of information and communications technology (ICT) into all aspects of our lives and its impact on social interactions is not a new phenomenon.

When coupled with additional push factors, such as the current pandemic, we are entering a new era of exploiting ICT in full gear to keep the world going while keeping our feet on the ground.

 
 
 

In the last two months, we have witnessed students using laptops or smartphones to access online learning content while campuses are closed. More than 60 higher education institutions have conducted online learning through distant education platforms.

Online learning was initially seen as a cheaper and more flexible alternative for developing countries to close the education divide between rural and urban students. The developing countries, however, are facing many challenges in implementing online learning, from poor ICT network infrastructure to a lack of quality content to issues over the competencies of the people that interact with the e-learning system. Indonesia is in a unique position to exploit the advent of online learning. More than 171 million or 69 per cent of Indonesians are connected to the World Wide Web with an Internet penetration rate that stood at 63.5 per cent last year, which is higher than the average of Asian countries.

However, most Indonesian Internet users are relying on the expensive and limited-capacity mobile network.

We can imagine that online learning will enable Indonesian teachers in big cities to teach students in rural areas, and provide capacity-building training to teachers in rural schools. Lecturers of tier-one universities can share their expertise and know-how with students in regions outside of Java. Online learning also can facilitate everyone to contribute to the advancement of the education sector through knowledge sharing.

In the long run, the social and economic impact will be enormous, especially in helping the government's effort at regional development equalisation.

Digitalisation can bridge trade gap

Adriel Kasonta

China Daily, China

The direct result of the fight with Covid-19 is, and will be, an unprecedented decline in international economic exchange. Broken supply chains, closed borders, suspended transport, falling demand abroad - these are the major problems faced by companies in which activity is based on international trade. The pandemic has meant that both importers and exporters have shifted their focus primarily to the "here and now".

The Chinese character for crisis carries a second meaning: opportunity. And this opportunity (in our case) can be an ability to take advantage of the intensification of existing trends, such as accelerated digitisation and further development of increasingly advanced forms of distance trading.

"Because of the pandemic threat, we do not fly to meetings and expos today, but more intensively, we transfer contacts and dialogue to the Internet… Now it's time for webinars, teleconferences, online expos and exhibitions to be treated as the basic, and not complementary, mechanism of distance cooperation," said president of the Polish-Asian Chamber of Commerce Janusz Piechocinski.

Since we are on the threshold of a new economic, social and political era, it depends on all of us whether we will welcome it with fear or be open to the amazing opportunities that it is presenting to us. It is up to us whether we learn from the past or learn to sense the future.

The e-future of justice

Taqbir Huda

The Daily Star, Bangladesh

On May 9, 2020, the President of Bangladesh sanctioned the operation of virtual courts by passing the Use of Information and Communications Technology in Court Ordinance 2020.

The objective of the law is to empower the courts to make use of ICT to enable virtual attendance of parties to a case during trial and to allow the court to hold inquiries, take evidence or deliver judgments.

In finally opening the doors to virtual courts, Bangladesh has joined a list of countries where the justice system has similarly responded to the coronavirus-induced lockdown with increased digitalisation.

The formal justice system in our country is painfully inaccessible to those who need it most. Courts are treated as a last resort by those whose rights have been violated, when all alternative means have failed. The virtual court system, in allowing people to attend hearings online, has immense potential in eliminating distance factors and corruption issues. However, the extent to which the virtual court system can mitigate two of the biggest challenges hindering access to justice largely depends on how it is fleshed out in practice.

The introduction of virtual courts marks the onset of a historic era for our judiciary. Whether they can live up to their potential, and maximise access to justice for those who need it most, very much depends on our recognising them as not only a temporary solution for the present but also a permanent solution for the future.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 24 news media titles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'Jumping on the tech bandwagon after Covid-19'. Print Edition | Subscribe