Healthcare, Technology

Coronavirus: Where The World Got it All Wrong

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

Coronavirus has succeeded in exposing inadequacies and shortcomings in our daily lives. As a result of the inadequacies, billions of people worldwide were under lockdown, thousands have died, and more are still dying. 

Governments, businesses, and individuals have been thrown into confusion, facing an uncertain economic future. The world, whether developing or developed, was completely unprepared for COVID-19 despite our technological advancements in the areas of AI and machine learning, hence, we are suffering the consequences direly. 

The coronavirus pandemic also exposed our ill-preparedness in how we have been handling our supply chains as well as security and privacy. A rundown of the following three very important sectors will bring to light where we failed and also a pointer as to what needs to be done since this may not be the last time we will be facing viral diseases.

Technological advancement

BlueDot, an artificial intelligence company, was able to notice that something ominous was in the offing and, therefore, went ahead to alert the world of a cluster of “unusual pneumonia” cases occurring around a market in Wuhan, China, about the midnight of December 30, 2019. The company likened the symptoms to those of the SARS, an outbreak that was experienced in 2003.

Unfortunately for the world, before the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Chinese authorities eventually got around to informing us, nearly a week after the emergence of COVID-19, it was late and the world has been thrown into a mammoth upheaval. 

The question is, why did we have to get it wrong? 

Having progressed so much with AI, the expectations were that we would have quickly marshaled our resources and then get to work, but we failed.  

This probably led, Professor Richard Kuhn to have said that, “If health officials could have taken action earlier and contained the outbreak in Wuhan, where the first cases were reported, the global clampdown could have been at a much more local level.” We, however, can never know this to be certain since we were not able to do much with AI even after the facts were known.

Also, the CNBC reported that an epidemiologist, physician, and professor Dr. Kamran Khan, revealed that doctors find it very difficult to lay their hands on information about infectious diseases that are usually at the disposition of government agencies and most times have to rely on the internet, to access real-time information. 

Why should this be so, when an AI-enabled algorithm can sort and collate relevant data faster and in scale than humans? Knowing fully well that if doctors have the necessary data, the right thing will be done?

Another area we didn’t adequately deploy technology, was in using human health workers were we should have made use of AI to power robotic cleaners that can clean hospitals and disinfect surfaces. This singular lapse could have resulted in a lot of the health frontline workers becoming infected with the virus.

Instead of sharing information and deploying what we have acquired from technology, the world was more engrossed in sharing blames. What did we do with the knowledge that Korean scientists came up with a deep learning-based model to predict an effective vaccine? 

COVID-19 can invade human cells through a “spike” protein, which binds to a human cell and is then able to infect the said cell. Predictions using a deep learning-based model detected four antivirals based on their abilities to bind with another molecule (antibodies) that could potentially bind a spike protein of COVID-19, which will then ensure the prevention of infecting human cells by the virus.

Supply chains

Coronavirus has taught us that dependence on cheap labor can be very disastrous, the virus has made it abundantly clear that world economies are highly dependent upon their global supply chains. The outbreak led to varied restrictions placed on the flow of both people and goods across international borders and even domestic regional territories. 

Without mincing words, it’s glaring that people and goods are the lifeblood of all economies and any form of distortion to these flows, even when this is allowed to occur remotely, can have a devastating and severe impact on the immediate condition of a nation or business. 

Companies around the world had to shut down because they ran out of parts that were sourced from China. Unfortunately, the country was also shut down for coronavirus that originated from Wuhan, China.

Coronavirus has vividly taught us that concerted efforts should be made when it’s possible to take into consideration the margin and credit implications of sourcing from alternative suppliers even if it’s temporary. You may indeed incur more costs by using a local supplier but then the impact of that might still be easily absorbed. 

It will, as we are currently witnessing, end up in a very big catastrophe and difficult to handle if supply disruption affects a large proportion of Stock Keeping Units (SKU) or inputs. What you need to do is to find ways of prioritizing so that these added costs are not transferred to the customer, to remain relevant and competitive in the global market.

Cybersecurity and privacy issues

We will only be compounding our range of problems if we decide to look upon the physical function of global supply chains as the only risk. Global supply chains are a huge cybersecurity risk as well. 

This is evident from the fact that later this year companies looking to secure contracts with the US Department of Defense will need to obtain Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification to prove that their cybersecurity meets federal requirements.

This may or may not stem from the fact that according to Sherrod DeGrippo, senior director of threat research and detection at Proofpoint, the total volume of phishing emails and other security threats relating to the coronavirus pandemic has translated to the most extensive blending of cyberattack types around a single issue that has occurred over a long period and most likely ever. 

What Proofpoint discovered is that cybercriminals are capitalizing on coronavirus to launch a series of dreadful attacks ranging from credential phishing, malicious attachments and links, business email compromise (BEC), fake landing pages, downloaders, spam, and malware and ransomware strains.

What came with coronavirus is that the cybercriminal world is burgeoning, waves of emails that are being sent by them have ranged from a dozen to over 200,000 at a time, they are also succeeding in their exploits since the number of campaigns is trending upwards. Before the coronavirus pandemic, campaigns were limited to just about one per day globally, but, there are incidents of three to four campaigns a day. 

The critical healthcare, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries are the prime targets. The New York Times recently reported that the Federal Trade Commission has received more than 18,000 coronavirus-related complaints, according to commission data from January through April 15. 

More than half the complaints were said to have been involved in some type of fraud, with reported losses of nearly $9 million. Cybercriminals are making use of telephone, phishing emails, text messages, and social media promotions to strip people of their hard-earned money, according to officials.

A serious fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is that most people have started working remotely and this is a veritable source for cybercriminals to launch their attacks since they have the opportunity for a wider range of targets. People working from home should, however, recourse to using protecting virtual private networks (VPNs), and endeavor to stay particularly vigilant for malicious emails regarding remote access and fake websites aimed at ensnaring unsuspecting remote workers.

The realistic thing the world should have done to cybersecurity issues was to come together as a force and tackle the problem. It shouldn’t have been left for whomsoever that was attacked.

Problems like these when left to fester become hydra-headed, the effects can spillover or trickle. This is exactly what coronavirus has taught us. Cybercriminals believe they have an opportunity in coronavirus and are leveraging it.

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About John Ejiofor

John Ejiofor is a curious life-researcher, whose quest to finding answers to life's pertinent questions has led to founding Nature Torch. This blog aims to debate and explore many questions about our earth -- including those a lot of people are uncomfortable with asking. He has been published on some of the internet's most respected websites, which you can find online.
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