INFORMATION and Communication Technology (ICT) experts have said the Government should use the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic as a springboard to enhance utilisation of digital technologies in the country's health delivery system.
Zimbabwe Information and Communication Technology chairman Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi said there was a need for Government through the Ministry of Information, Communication Technology and Courier Services to expedite the channelling of more resources towards mobilising Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), ICT companies and professionals to come up with ICT solutions to help track and contain the spread of Covid-19 as the country moves to digitalise its entire health sector.
"The Ministry of Information, Communication Technology and Courier Services should be leading from the front by calling MNO, ICT companies and ICT professionals to come together and come up with ICT solutions to help track and contain the spread of Covid-19. We do not have to recreate the wheel but just to copy and paste what countries like China, Italy and Israel have implemented.
"Worldwide, it's known that positioning ICTs has always played a crucial role during the time of crisis and disasters, just like these challenging times of Covid-19. The Government agencies, health institutions, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and other stakeholders on the ground require precise positions to accurately assess the situation, pinpoint the risky areas and carry out relief and rehabilitation efforts accordingly, using ICT," he said.
Eng Mutisi emphasised the need for MNOs and ICT professionals to support the Ministry of Health and Child Care in its efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 as the country joins the rest of the world grappling to contain the scourge.
"ICT professionals and ICT companies should be leading from the front by using ICT and skills to develop systems that can enhance disease surveillance, coordinate response mechanisms, and promote public awareness that is more significant now than any other time. This role of digital technologies is particularly crucial in Zimbabwe now than any other time," he said.
Countries across the world have deployed the use of big data, mobile applications (apps) and other digital technologies with countries like China, Iran, Israel, Taiwan, and Italy using geo-location technology and relying on data from technology platforms and MNOs companies to contain the spread of the Covid-19.
Another ICT expert Mr Prosper Mutswiri, however, said initiatives of introducing digital technologies in the country's health sector have over the past few years been met with resistance by some sections.
"ICT players have been advocating for Internet of Things (IoT) based ways of delivering services, which some sections have been resisting. They have been advocating for ways of promoting tele-medicine and this has been met with some form of resistance in some sections of health sector," he said.
Mr Mutswiri said it was important for ICT operators to be on the forefront in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
"ICT operators and professionals must lead the process, working closely with Government and health professionals in unveiling awareness and developing response mechanisms that are easily accessible to the common people," he said.
Mr Mutswiri said with the country having an internet and mobile telecommunications penetration rate of over 50 percent and 90 percent respectively, MNOs are capable of profiling Covid-19 cases.
"Most operators are hooked onto their service in one way or the other. They have direct database of these people in one way or the other. They are close to reliable details of customers, which will help in profiling when it comes to solution provision especially in the case of Covid-19. You can track where people are, how to assist them and which relevant information to disseminate and in relevant language, to bring effectiveness," he said.
Mr Mutswiri said the country should move towards embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it forges to improve efficiencies in all sectors of the economy.
"Everything starts and revolves around technology. ICT companies working closely with all sectors must now work on integrating all their working systems and data in order to develop a seamless service delivery through technology. The period of Fourth Industrial Revolution where everything revolves around technology is here, in which ICT use and championing is now compulsory for all sections of life," he said.