They say necessity is the mother of invention and in every calamity, there are traces of opportunities. With the disruptions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are now witnessing new economic and technological shifts emerging and being adopted.
A window of opportunity is opening for innovators and innovative companies as the focus shifts towards ways to prevent and control the pandemic as well as prevent the total collapse of the global economy.
As it has happened during other global calamities, great innovations such as contract employment after the Black Death of 1300, e-commerce sites such as Alibaba and Badu during the 2003-2004 SARS pandemic and sharing platforms such as Uber and Airbnb during the 2008 recession emerged.
Today we are already witnessing different levels of innovations emerging as people and business behaviour shifts to facilitate control of the pandemic, assist people to interact and work comfortably, develop medical solutions to solve the pandemic and help firms to survive the pandemic.
The first level of innovations emerging is geared towards minimising the spread of coronavirus. For instance, we have seen private companies and universities developing prototypes for ventilators and personal protective equipment. Other firms such as Kicotec have re-engineered their processes to produce essential products such as masks and sanitisers.
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In addition, some small companies and individuals are developing applications to help in contact tracing.
The second level of innovation is enhancing communication and interaction between individuals and the organisation. With the aspects of social distancing and isolation, working and schooling from home becoming the main preventive measure against coronavirus, we have seen the emergence of innovations such as teleconferencing as the main meeting point.
Online platforms such as zoom, google classroom, TVs and radios have become the tools of learning. In healthcare, we have seen the adoption of telemedicine to enhance the communication between doctors and various hospitals while surveillance apps and systems are also being developed to enhance social distancing and enhance quarantine.
Another level of innovation is those that are facilitating the discovery of treatment and eradication of Covid-19. In this case, we have seen here in organisations such as Kemri creating testing kits that will help in giving results as quickly as possible.
We have also seen continued research on the development of Covid 19 vaccine and drugs that would help in suppressing the virus while telemedicine is being used to help doctors work globally.
With statistics showing that by the end of the pandemic approximately half of the world population will be pushed down into poverty, post-Covid innovations will emerge. This will entail the development of innovative ways to lift the most affected sectors of the economy from total collapse.
For instance, innovative macro policies will have to be invented to prevent the total collapse of micro and small enterprises and other highly affected industries such as aviation and tourism.
The writer is a lecturer at Kirinyaga University and an entrepreneurship and innovation expert