COVID-19 is not the first virus outbreak that the world has witnessed. However, the main distinction in the way the world is combatting this, as compared to SARS, Ebola, and the Spanish flu, is that we have technology on our side today, says Benjamin Boesch, Chief Digital Officer at VFS Global.
Every aspect of human interaction – from healthcare, access to essential goods and services, our work or social lives – has managed to make a more or less smooth transition to becoming digital-first. While we can do everything possible to shield ourselves from the virus, technology plays a key role today in ensuring we have all the information needed to keep safe and navigate through a new way of life.
In the MENA region, vital sectors are transforming technologically and we can witness hospitals and clinics using digital technologies efficiently to curb the spread of the virus as well as enabling distance learning and remote work. Each sector and the respective governing authority have a role to play in leading the digital transformation the region is currently undergoing.
Existing technology innovating itself
This is a crucial time for businesses to re-evaluate their strategies for the near future, and we predict those that embrace technology as part of their blueprint to fare far better than the rest. The travel ecosystem witnessed tools that were far ahead of other industries and have proven especially apt to cater to our current situation. For example, VFS Global has been employing the convenience and security of mobile biometric systems to offer travellers the option of ‘Visa At Your Doorstep’ that enables them to accept visa applications and register the traveller’s biometric data from the comfort and safety of the traveller’s home or office.
The emergence of new technology
The pandemic has given impetus to many new strides in technology, especially in healthcare, beginning with testing kits, contact tracing. Technology is now enabling people to better understand risks in their immediate surroundings and to respond with physical distancing and other preventative measures accordingly. Successful examples include the Al Hosn UAE app which detects if an individual has been in close proximity to someone who had contact with someone infected with COVID-19. A chatbot service titled ‘Virtual Doctor’ asks vital questions that help it to deduce if a person is at risk of getting COVID.