Contact tracing is a key public health response to limit infectious disease outbreaks such as the global COVID-19 pandemic.
More than ever, authorities worldwide are using the power of mobile technologies to help them understand and manage the spread of COVID-19.
GPS, Bluetooth, cellphone masts and AI-powered big data analytics are now being used in countries across the world to collect data that helps authorities improve these efforts and save lives.
But how can we preserve personal privacy and maintain public trust while using these technologies to perform crucial contact tracing?
Key experts discussed these issues on Friday in Episode 2 of the AI for Good Webinar Series: COVID-19 – Using mobile phones & AI for contact tracing while respecting privacy.
One central goal of contact tracing is to identify people who have come into close contact with people who have the virus, explained Reinhard Scholl, Deputy Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), as he kicked off the webinar.
“Is it possible to have both privacy and health?” asked Scholl. “The fear is that the short-term emergency measures that have been taken right now will stay long after the madness has passed.”
Indeed, many countries have felt the need to relax privacy laws during the crisis in order to use data to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The webinar discussed current efforts to avoid that trade off — and to preserve personal privacy while providing effective ways to leverage mobile data that could potentially save millions of lives.
Kurt Rohloff, Co-founder and CTO of Duality Technologies, explained how his company allows organizations to apply advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to data while it is encrypted to generate insights without exposing protected data.
Continue reading on ITU News
Start-ups in Uganda are developing innovative products to help consumers and businesses survive during COVID-19
Being locked at home with borders sealed, seeing transport halted and curfews imposed, the all-too-familiar consequences of COVID-19 are being felt in Uganda as well.
Increasing market uncertainty has meant decreasing revenues for many small businesses. However, a few innovative enterprises are doing their best to turn this crisis into an opportunity – not only to keep themselves afloat, but also to help consumers and other businesses ride out the pandemic with as little pain as possible.
We present to you some striking examples of innovative responses from e-commerce start-ups to the current crisis.
Prepaid meal plans
As many business-to-business clients shut down temporarily and others reduced their demand, Online Butchery saw a radical reshaping of their clientele. Chief Executive Tony Ayebare reports that while Online Butchery has lost many of their traditional customers, their business has seen an unexpected leap as well. “The start-up’s business-to-consumer meat orders have skyrocketed overnight – from 10 orders a day to 150 a day in just two weeks.” He says.
‘More people realize they can now buy meat without leaving home, which bonds well with one of our objectives of being a household name when it comes to meat and meat products,’ Ayebare said.
They are now providing a new service called ‘prepaid meal plans’ to support Ugandans who are now facing the task of cooking every meal of the day at home. For a weekly or monthly fee, clients can get lunches and dinners delivered right to their door.
Fresh produce from the farm
Business is also booming for Bringo Fresh. Their online platform allows people to order fresh, organic produce and have it delivered to their doorsteps. Orders began to climb immediately after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Uganda, and the size of each order has grown by about 150%, says public relations officer Lysandra Chen.
In a show of solidarity, the start-up dropped its delivery fee to better serve their community in this time of need.
“We are also buying more from our farmers and engaging with more farmers on our database, so we plan to do more with our farmers after the pandemic.” Chen said.
Continue Reading on ITC News
The coronavirus speeds up the transition to a digital economy while exposing the digital gap between countries and societies.
The global crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has pushed us further into a digital world, and changes in behaviour are likely to have lasting effects when the economy starts to pick up. But not everyone is ready to embrace a more digitized existence.
A new analysis from UNCTAD maps the changing digital landscape since the last major global calamity, the 2008/09 financial crisis. It looks at how a digitally enabled world is working for some, but not all equally.
According to the analysis, the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the uptake of digital solutions, tools, and services, speeding up the global transition towards a digital economy.
However, it has also exposed the wide chasm between the connected and the unconnected, revealing just how far behind many are on digital uptake.
“Inequalities in digital readiness hamper the ability of large parts of the world to take advantage of technologies that help us cope with the coronavirus pandemic by staying at home,” said UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director, Shamika Sirimanne.
“This situation has significant development implications that cannot be ignored. We need to ensure that we do not leave those who are less digitally equipped even further behind in a post-coronavirus world.”
UN advisory body sets out an Agenda for Action to ensure the networks the whole world is now relying on are robust, resilient and within reach of as many people as possible.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo and International Chamber of Commerce Secretary-General John Denton issued on 2 April a joint statement calling for more dialogue with business to maximize the effectiveness of public policies to mitigate the economic damage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with regards to trade.
“We are concerned about the severe disruptions to value chains in many sectors – with major implications for employment and the supply of goods, especially essential medical and food supplies,” they said in the 2 April statement. “Business can play a key role in signalling where trade flows and production chains are being affected, helping to identify solutions that maximize health outcomes while minimizing economic damage.”
“It is increasingly clear that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic will necessitate a significant rebuild of domestic policies – and of international cooperation,” they said. “Ongoing efforts to improve and strengthen the global trading system, including the WTO, must therefore continue.”
The two leaders welcomed governments’ efforts “to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on jobs and growth, and lay the foundations for a strong and inclusive recovery.” To generate “constructive recommendations to governments on trade policy measures that can be readily deployed to speed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the immediate and mid-term,” they said the ICC would host a “virtual business roundtable” organized with its partners, as well as with support from the WTO.
The full text of the statement is available here.
What are international institutions pledging in the wake of the pandemic?
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a humanitarian disaster. Expectedly, its effects go beyond the health of populations as it impacts most economies across the globe. For the least developed countries (LDCs), as for others, a swift response is required.
Lessons can be learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa, where engaging communities quickly was key to containing and stopping the spread of the disease. Beyond this, and national responses to flatten the curve and control the spread of the virus, much needs to be done at the regional and international levels to orchestrate the response and lay the foundations of recovery.
Forecasts for the global economy and trade in 2020 have been revised downwards by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Trading partners of LDCs, including the top three (i.e. China, the European Union and the United States), have had to take measures to confine their populations in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Global trade is therefore being disrupted by factors such as decreasing levels of consumption, restrictions placed on the movement of people, business shutdowns and lower productivity in operations. In addition, foreign financial flows may be shifted away from coronavirus‑affected countries, and there is an underutilization of domestic capital and labour as factories are left idle and people stay at home.
These global supply chain disruptions are impacting LDCs, affecting, for example, textile product exports from Bangladesh and Cambodia where many factories are already closing due to a shortage of raw materials from China. In Cambodia, it has been reported that impacts are significant.
Although countries with tourism sectors will be impacted irrespective of their level of development, in LDCs this impact is likely to compound with other forms of economic and social fragility.
Continue Reading on Trade for Development News by EIF
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has been causing cascading economic and social stress across the world. The production of goods and services has decreased in some countries, while an increasing number of economies are feared to go in recession, with rising unemployment rates. More schools are closed, and hospitals overcrowded with dwindling medical supplies. In combating the adverse effects of COVID-19 and enhancing societal and economic resilience, digital technology and connectivity have emerged as an essential tool and alternative to the physical equivalent.
At the heart of the fight against the spreading virus are emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to map and trace infection cases. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed an infection trajectory which illustrates the real-time data and time series, informing us of their COVID-19 curves globally. 3D printing technologies have been proven effective in filling the gap in producing much needed medical equipment. Telemedicine is making a positive contribution to healthcare during the pandemic, bridging the gap between people, physicians, and health systems, enabling everyone, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians online. Robotic devices and camera technology are being used with coronavirus patients and in broader communication during the crisis.
Continue Reading on UN ESCAP Blog
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing a global health emergency, and a global economic slowdown. Trade, investment, growth, and employment are all affected and the crisis will have an impact on the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
As the only international organization fully dedicated to supporting the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), the International Trade Centre is closely following how the pandemic is affecting MSMEs with a particular focus on those small businesses in developing countries.
On this site, we are providing insights and guidance to small businesses searching for ways to cope with the operational stress generated by COVID-19. This will also be a useful resource for business support organizations and policymakers assisting MSMEs in these efforts.
Original Source : ITC News
Landmark transaction, largest US dollar denominated Social bond transaction to date in capital markets
The African Development Bank (AAA) has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.
The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest dollar denominated Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.
The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.
“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest dollar social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.
The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.
“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.
Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems.
It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession.
Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African continent’s fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.
The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.
“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.
Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%).
Original Source : ADB News
The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented disruption to the global economy and world trade, as production and consumption are scaled back across the globe.
One of the most effective means of addressing this crisis is through timely, accurate information. An informed public is better positioned to make sound decisions including on questions related to trade. This is why we have created this dedicated page on the WTO website. It will provide up-to-the minute trade-related information including relevant notifications by WTO members, the impact the virus has had on exports and imports and how WTO activities have been affected by the pandemic.
On 20 March 2020, in the light of the recent global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), sent a letter encouraging Contracting Parties to the Conventions on temporary admission to provide sufficient facilities for ATA Carnet holders and representatives to re-export temporarily imported goods, without unexpected additional costs, in cases where delays in re-exporting were due to preventive measures taken by governments of the Contracting Parties against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
This measure was carried out in consultation with Mr. John W.H. Denton AO, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), given that many National Guaranteeing Associations (NGAs) have recently raised concerns about the fact that preventive measures implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19 might cause delays in the re-exportation of goods imported using ATA Carnets.
As many countries and cities are currently under strict quarantine and lockdown measures, Carnet holders and representatives in these affected areas are experiencing challenges in re-exporting temporarily imported goods within the requisite time period. Some holders and representatives are unable to leave their homes or hotels, making it impossible for them to complete Customs clearance formalities and have their goods leave the country on time. The delivery of replacement Carnets is also proving challenging, given the potential suspension of, or delays, in postal services. More importantly, some Customs administrations do not accept replacement ATA Carnets for extension purposes. By way of example, the ATA Convention only makes reference to the replacement of Carnets in case of destruction, loss or theft, but not for extension purposes.
Indicating that the Conventions do not preclude Contracting Parties from providing greater facilities, at their own discretion, to Carnet holders and representatives, Dr. Mikuriya asked Contracting Parties to consider ways of enhancing facilitation of ATA Carnet procedures, bearing in mind that some delays in re-exportation are entirely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such facilitation measures would be regarded as consistent with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for international traffic in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as with the WCO Communiqué on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, seeking to minimize trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
 Temporary Admission Conventions including the Convention on Temporary Admission (Istanbul, 26 June 1990 – commonly referred to as the Istanbul Convention) and the Customs Convention on the ATA Carnet for the temporary admission of goods (commonly referred to as the ATA Convention).
Original Source : World Customs Organizations News
The unfolding crisis is everywhere and dominant on news and social media channels. We don’t mean to unnecessarily add to this burden of communication, but we do want to offer any possibility that we can to help. This has to begin with an understanding: how is this crisis affecting you and how might your professional experience as a digital and e-commerce entrepreneur be relevant at this time?
We read how e-commerce is causing a boom for certain well established platforms: customers at home are relying on deliveries for their essentials and ongoing needs. Echoing the opportunity that Alibaba was able to respond to in the earlier SARS epidemic, e-commerce platforms have the opportunity to grow their business in the short term and cement long term customer loyalty that could, in the longer term, see the sector come out stronger and more entrenched in customers’ habits.
But there is also the responsibility that comes with the seriousness of the moment: how can we ensure that this business is doing no harm? That home deliveries remain a safe way of conducting business – for customer and the delivery staff. Is it right to oblige warehouse employees to work overtime and in conditions that many office workers are no longer allowed? How do we judge which ecommerce business is necessary to support essential activity? How can we contribute to protect vulnerable customers?
These debates are likely to gather volume in the public domain: those platforms which are doing good business may be judged to be profiteering at the expense of customers and their employees. There are likely to be instances of transmission, real or implied, through logistics activities. The public may challenge to what degree eCommerce is valuable or frivolous.
How best can we respond to these challenges and opportunities? What can you do, as a professional engaged in e-commerce, to bring your skills to the service of reducing the impacts of this health, social and economic crisis? How can we help?
As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, digital health comes into focus. Daily updates from social media channels, mapping tools on the number of people infected, and online news sources keep millions of people across the globe informed. While the speed of information exchange has been staggering, online platforms have also seen a rise in fake news and misinformation.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, digital epidemiology is emerging fast. We are witnessing the involvement of major tech actors who are exploring and exploiting the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and other emerging technologies in predicting, monitoring, and preventing the adverse effects of the crisis.
Coronavirus crisis will further streamline digitalisation in the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other global health organisations. To that end, we have mapped out the coronavirus outbreak with digital policy issues as per the GIP Digital Watch taxonomy.
Data to the rescue?
The role of data in the coronavirus crisis cannot be highlighted enough. From early warning identification to monitoring and risk assessment of the pandemic, data collection has been central.
Much of the attention is accorded to data collection that enabled the prediction and identification of the pandemic. As noted above, on the basis of data collected by BlueDot, an early warning on the virus was communicated to the WHO. Similarly, data collected by medical centres on patients’ geographic location and infection situation was entered into a government database known as the “National Infectious Disease Monitoring Information System Database” which ultimately helped Chinese authorities identify the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Data visualisation has also been put to use. Online data platforms have been created to track the spread of the pandemic worldwide. One such tool has been developed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University in order to combat what the Washington Post called a “pandemic of misinformation about coronavirus”. The mapping tool gathers data from the WHO, Centers for Disease Control, and the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China. The data on the map is available for download so as to facilitate access to researchers.
In response to the outbreak, other calls for and initiatives on data sharing have surfaced. The Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus invited health ministers of member states to improve data-sharing measures on the coronavirus. Academia and the private sector are for their part involved in data sharing. Data has been shared through Github by Harvard Medical School, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation as well as Metabiota, a risk analysis company.
More data, however, does not necessarily mean more balanced and evidence-based policies. Very often, especially in dealing with risks, we miss the context and references. For example, are current actions of cancelling flights or in some cases boycotting Chinese goods proportional to the risk level? The answer is no. The coronavirus death rate is estimated at 2% which is significantly lower in comparison to 14-15% in the case of SARS, 50% for ebola or 35% during the MERS epidemics. Data is not enough to make informed and reasonable policies in proportion to the current and potential risks. That said, AI may help put data in the right context of risks and societal priorities and in turn facilitate evidence-informed policy-making.
Impact on digital economy
The spread of the coronavirus is also having a major impact on the digital economy. While some predictions show that the effect of the coronavirus on the global economy will be worse than that of SARS, the digital economy is showing no sign of a slowdown.
While traditional stock exchange markets have experienced a decline in part resulting from the outbreak, the value of the most popular cryptocurrency – Bitcoin has increased by 30% since December 2019. Today, the price of one bitcoin is estimated at USD 9,300. Some cryptocurrency and blockchain companies have promised to donate USD 1.44 million to the cause.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a surge in teleworking. Fearing the spread of the virus, companies have requested employees to work from home. Measures were taken by companies including Alibaba and Tencent across China. The Japan Times went on to call the coronavirus the ‘world’s largest teleworking experiment’.
E-commerce is also alive and kicking. Due to the shutdown of cities, people have resorted to purchasing their groceries and other necessities online. Some reports mention an increase in the business activity of e-commerce companies in China.
Read the complete article at Digital Watch Observatory from DiPLO