How tech can help us cope with COVID-19
It entered our world suddenly.
The novel coronavirus, now referred to as COVID-19, has taken lives in a heartbeat and spread through the world before we could even grasp what a pandemic would look like. Now, the world is struggling to regain control.
In this new war, the emergence of technological solutions has been the light at the end of the tunnel. Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary solutions and it is great to see we can develop them at high speed, in often unexpected collaborations. Creativity has risen to an unprecedented level and ideas have come from unexpected sectors and corners.
Let’s shed some light on some of the most innovative tech solutions that have sprung up throughout the world:
Virus tracking tech – enabling us to fight at the right place, quicker
Thanks to the exponential growth of connectivity and data we have the ability to track the spread of the disease rapidly. This is crucial: the better we track, the better we fight the disease.
The Canadian start-up BlueDot has proven to be able to pre-warn us about outbreaks. They have had relevant information prior to Centres for Disease Control. Metabiota, a health tech company, offered early analysis about the virus’s spread, which led to a warning that the virus would reach South Korea, Japan and Taiwan a week earlier than expected. This enabled everyone in those regions to take appropriate measures, with better results. By tracking the disease, we can help contain its spread.
Diagnostic and preventative tech – improving accuracy & speed
In this pandemic, diagnosing the virus correctly, but at great speed, is crucial. Tech helps us to do this too.
Airports, most of which are more or less closed by now, have used technology to track infections, by taking people’s temperatures. Biosticker, for instance, can speed this up; it measures an individual’s temperature, respiration rate and coughing, and can transmit updates every 10 minutes.
The company Infervision have developed an AI solution that helps healthcare workers to detect and monitor the disease more effectively. The solution improves CT diagnosis speed. Remote health apps with chatbots that use AI can also screen people to check who is feverish and can be used simply by people at home. Initial advice can be given via chatbot, taking some of the pressure on general practitioners away.
Deploying robots to the Corona battlefields
Robots could play a crucial part in crises such as these, since they cannot become infected. We can and should use them as much as possible where it is risky to use humans. Blue Ocean Robotics can be sent to the virus battlefield. They use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses.
We have no time to lose, literally. People must be protected. Robots can work in our place - they are not at risk. The company Blue Ocean Robotics, moves around hospitals by itself, taking elevators and stairs without any problem and without any worries of the virus. It disinfects 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. It is not in the way and does not interrupt staff workflow. Through a Chinese partner, Sunay Healthcare Supply, the robots have been deployed since February in all Chinese provinces.
Collaboration without barriers
The war against the virus has united us – encouraging us to collaborate more throughout the world. This goes for the tech sector too. In the US, the Consumer Technology Association has partnered with the World Bank Group on the Global Tech Challenge, calling on tech companies around the globe to develop innovative solutions together.
One result of this collaborative ecosystem is that tech startups are actively involved with specialists in hospitals, academics and government entities around the world to activate technology. In the Netherlands, DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma had just handed over to his successors, only to be asked by the minister of health to support the government in acquiring more test materials. Governments are acknowledging global business leadership and knowledge of technology is a crucial skill they need. The crisis requires us to put everyone’s valuable experience and skillsets into service.
The Coronavirus outbreak is a huge challenge, yet there is an opportunity for Tech to prove its value to the world. I personally hope that it will help Tech for Good to become the norm, rather than the exception. With the right mindset and collaborative approach, we create a world that is so strong we can face any challenge.
Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, priced at £30.99 in hardback and free in e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com/
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.