• March 18th, 2020

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China is fronting technology’s potential in fighting the impact of coronavirus. Chinese tech giants such as Alibaba, Huawei, Baidu, DiDi and Tencent are boosting their investments in the healthcare sector to contrast the new coronavirus outbreak applying cutting edge technologies like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

How is China using tech against COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out $211 billion from economies across Asia Pacific, according to a report published by S&P Global Ratings on March 10th 2020. While countries struggle to contain the diffusion, Tech giants are accelerating their efforts in healthcare solutions leveraging cloud computing and artificial intelligence to fight the pandemic. 

China, a world leader in technology and the epicentre of the outbreak, has asked their tech giants to expand their surveillance capabilities to help the government track people and therefore map who have potentially been in contact with the virus. Chinese tech giants are also increasing their investments into healthcare with the aim to provide solutions against the virus to the medical industry.

How is China implementing mass surveillance?

China is boosting its mass surveillance capabilities to help contain the epidemic through different methods, with technology at its core. Artificial intelligence and use of data are now the enablers for advanced tracking solutions such as facial recognition. 

Other solutions adopted by China involve:

- Drones, to broadcast stay-at-home warnings to the population or to request citizens identified through facial recognition to wear the prescribed facemasks. 

- QR codes, a color-coded health rating system that is tracking the population on a daily basis through a mandatory log in to the app leveraging on pay wallet services like Alibaba’s Alipay or Ant’s wallet. The QR code is used to instruct people whether they should be quarantined or allowed in public spaces based on their recent movements. 

Technologies are also used to support citizens not only to track them, for example:

- Robots are preparing meals at hospitals, doubling up as waiters in restaurants, spraying disinfectants or cleaning.

- Autonomous vehicles are delivering essential goods like medicines and foodstuffs.

- Drones are transporting medical equipment or patient samples and spraying disinfectants in the countryside.

How are China's tech giants helping recover?

Chinese tech giants are helping the healthcare industry in diagnosis as well as in discovering cures. 

First of all, we need to know more about the virus. That's why top China's tech companies like Alibaba, Huawei, DiDi and Tencent have opened up their cloud computing resources. This will help researchers in genome sequencing, which is crucial to map the virus and to understand its structure and characteristics. Tech giants' cloud computing capabilities will support researchers in running heavy calculations and model solutions faster than standard processors. 

Another important aspect of this outbreak is to support people answering their worries and connecting with specialists. That’s why Baidu, China’s largest search engine with interesting AI capabilities development, offers for free its online doctor consultation platform to answer basic questions about the virus and escalate high-risk cases to relevant medical professionals. Such a solution will help alleviate resources and minimize contact.

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