If it wasn’t for technology, COVID-19 would have ended the world

Mohamed Alaa El-Din
15 Min Read

If the Hollywood filmmakers knew the future, they would not have been able to weave their films in a way that simulates the reality we currently live in.

Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) panic has started, streets most of the time are empty except trees swayed by the wind left and right. Sound of car engine can only be heard at intervals, while people are fighting to win the last tissue roll in stores. Even if you found people in the street, you would see them roaming soullessly.

Currently, most governments have suspended all activities and services, as only the health sector is operating efficiently and even over its capacity.

Nevertheless, things are almost normal. Companies are still operating, newspapers are distributed, and deals can be made. All of this and more would not have taken place without technology.

Thanks to technology, work has not stopped as people can work from home. Schools were shut down, but students can still attend their classes online.

Coronavirus hit the global economy severely, but it would certainly have been fatal without technology.

IBM’s supercomputer Summit

US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has deployed the world’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer, IBM-built Summit, in the fight against COVID-19.

Researchers from ORNL were granted emergency computation time on Summit, using it to perform simulations with unprecedented speed.

In just two days, Summit identified and studied 77 small-molecule drug potential compounds to fight against the COVID-19. A task  – using a traditional wet lab approach – would have taken years.

The researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory used Summit to perform simulations of more than 8,000 possible compounds to screen for those that have the most opportunity to have an impact on the disease, by binding to the main “spike” protein of the coronavirus, rendering it unable to infect host cells.

They ranked the compounds of interest that could have value in experimental studies of the virus.

Viruses infect cells by binding to them and using a “spike” to inject their genetic material into the host cell. To understand new biological compounds, like viruses, researchers in wet labs grow the micro-organism and see how it reacts in real-life to the introduction of new compounds. This is a slow process without powerful computers that can perform digital simulations to narrow down the range of potential variables.

Computer simulations can examine how different variables react with different viruses. Each of these individual variables can comprise billions of unique data points. When these data points are compounded with multiple simulations, this can become a very time-intensive process if a conventional computing system is used.

The results from Summit don’t mean that a cure or treatment for the new coronavirus has been found. But scientists hope that the computational findings will inform future studies and provide a focused framework for wet-labs to further investigate the compounds. Only then will we know if any of them have the needed characteristics to attack and kill the virus.

But no doubt – Summit has helped shrink the front end part of the process of conventional methods, scientists would normally have used.

Apps to help you work from home

With the outbreak of the COVID-19, many companies in Egypt started implementing the work-from-home policy, in order to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.

The Egyptian government has given the green light to companies, whether in the public or private sector, to manage the work in a way that reduces leaving home, either by applying a remote work policy or reducing the number of employees. In Daily News Egypt, we use Trello platform to manage work from home.

To maintain productivity and facilitate remote work, there are several applications that can help you with this.

  • RescueTime

When you work from home for the first time, you may experience some difference in organising your working hours, due to changing environment. RescueTime is an app that helps you organise tasks and better optimise your time. The app is free on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

  • MindMeister

Sometimes ideas can appear randomly but are forgotten. Here you can create a mental map of your thoughts. MindMeister offers many advantages to create mind maps easily through drag and drop. The app is available for free on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

  • SyncBack

If you do not want to risk going to the office to get your files due to the spread of the coronavirus, you should use a system to synchronise your files on the work computer with the home computer, and the best solution for this is to use a tool such as SyncBack. It allows you to back up all your important files and open them anywhere, post, and share with the team.

  • Trello App

Trello is a very important tool for large work teams, as it helps them easily manage tasks remotely, using simple list-making boards to define tasks of individuals and follow up on their progress.

  • Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a free app from Google to communicate online. It supports video communication and allows chatting with up to 10 people simultaneously. It also allows sending photos, stickers, GIFs, and emojis while chatting. All you need to start a video call is a Google account.

The app also allows voice calling to any phone number in the world, voicemail, and instant messaging even when the other side is not connected to the Internet.

The app is available for free on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as a website version.

  • Slack

If you are primarily looking to organise individual meetings via video chat, the free version of Slack app is a good option. The free version provides access to 10,000 messages from your team’s latest messages, and integration with 10 other applications such as: Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365, but it only provides voice and video calls between two individuals. The app is available for free on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as a website version.

  • Skype

Skype allows you to make video calls with up to 50 people at one time for free. It also provides you with a screen sharing feature to view presentations and documents with the team while talking, and transfer files directly through the application, and you can also use it to call landlines by adding credit to the account. The app is available for free on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as a website version.

  • Zoom

Daily News Egypt started using the app since working remotely. Zoom allows group video calls with up to 100 people simultaneously for 40 minutes for free. The application is characterised by providing high resolution for video communication, screen sharing, sending audio files either from the phone or computer, with the ability to make or receive phone calls, and check voicemail. The app is available for free on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as a website version.

  • WhatsApp

WhatsApp offers video calling for up to four people per call, and due to the widespread popularity of WhatsApp on most smartphones, this makes it an easily available option for any sudden video calls. The app is available for free on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as a website version.

Distance learning platforms

Schools, universities, and institutes were suspended as a precaution to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but education did not stop and all this thanks to technology.

Egypt, like many other countries in the world, decided to suspend schools and universities. This gave students the opportunity to rely on technology for learning.

In this context, the Vodafone Egypt Foundation for Community Development announced its cooperation with Nahdet Misr publishing house to launch an initiative that supports distance education for Egyptian students. This partnership requires that the Vodafone Egypt Foundation launch an online educational platform, on which Nahdet Misr provides digital educational content from the most popular educational series, Al Adwaa.

The platform will be available for free. It includes explanatory videos by specialised teachers. These videos are currently being produced specifically to cover this emergency period, in addition, it offers multiple evaluation methods, interactive questions, and direct communication tools with teachers.

The new educational platform aims to support students to complete their educational path as well as allow parents to follow up on the performance of their children.

The partnership comes to provide complementary educational resources for what the Ministry of Education provides on its platforms, especially the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, which is one of the most important and largest electronic educational platforms in the world.

Another platform is Nafham, which is available on a website and a YouTube channel on which it provides explanations of the various subjects for all age groups by specialised teachers who provide their services remotely as well.

The service provides an innovative online e-learning service that provides a simplified explanation of school education curricula in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Kuwait through videos of 5-20 minutes, free for all students.

Shezlong provides online psychotherapy sessions

Shezlong, the first online e-mental health clinic in the Arab world, launched a campaign to provide psychological support to Egyptians suffering from negative psychological effects as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.

The application said that 15,000 free online sessions will be devoted to psychological support, with the participation of a number of Egyptian and Arab psychiatrists.

Mohamed Alaa, the managing director of Shezlong, said the company’s management team made a decision to provide a free online portal for all doctors around the world to use the Shezlong application to communicate with their patients and support them in light of the interruption of movement in most countries of the world.

The platform enables the doctor to diagnose, support, treat, and prescribe medications with utmost confidentiality through the application, where the patient can communicate with the doctor through video conferencing solutions or voice calls via the Internet.

The company also intends to present a proposal to the Egyptian Ministry of Health that Shezlong is ready to support it with a specialised programme to support all the patients in quarantine or families that have been placed under self-isolation to help them overcome this ordeal and help in their psychological rehabilitation until they are quickly cured by improving their mental health.

Alaa said that by conducting a rapid survey with a number of doctors using the application, they pointed out that there is a noticeable rise in the levels of anxiety and panic among Egyptians, not only because of the fear of the spread of the virus or fear for their health, but also because of concern about the negative effects of the decisions of the compelling governments to disrupt the study, work, and movement, which will cause expected economic recession at all levels.

In addition to the fear of losing loved ones from the elderly due to illness, there is also a societal fear of increasing pressure on the health care system, especially as doctors are pressured at hospitals.

Shezlong has launched its online platform as the first mental health clinic five years ago. It features 200 doctors in Egypt and abroad.

The company said that psychiatrists stressed the need to convey messages of reassurance for the people, ask them to stay at home, and follow instructions without fear because this may expose them to diseases due to the vulnerability of the immune system affected by the heightened anxiety and fear.

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