A helping hand in the Covid war

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A helping hand in the Covid war

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 | Omkar Rai

The Indian IT industry is warranting business continuity to global clients and meeting demands of the nation

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the world is unprecedented and so humongous that the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has projected that the global economy could shrink by up to one per cent in 2020. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the recession triggered by the Coronavirus could be worse than the one caused by the global financial crisis in 2008. However, certain industries will bloom due to the crisis like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, health devices, insurance and so on, while some will withstand it better, like the $191 billion Indian IT Industry. In comparison to other industry verticals, the IT industry is in a better position in terms of communication infrastructure, geographic distribution, business segmentation, global delivery model and virtual work culture, which ensure that companies deliver services to their global clients even during the nationwide lockdown. Most of the IT organisations are leveraging the cloud to deliver business-critical solutions to their clients. Plus, with the majority of the employee strength  adopting the work from home (WFH) model, it was business as usual and there were no productivity disruptions. Barring data centres and other mission-critical projects that needed minimal deployment of employees onsite, most IT functions are cloud-integrated, which supported the remote operations.

Timely Government interventions like relaxations of norms and various policy amendments helped IT companies display alacrity in ramping up the WFH employee strength to comply with business exigencies of clients amid the shutdown. With right enablement like provisioning laptops, communication facilities, secured network like VPN, tools and software, IT companies have shown the maturity in addressing the immediate challenges of the lockdown.

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the industry is devising a strategy through which the minimum requirements of the country in this challenging time can be served efficaciously so that the mandate of the lockdown can be met successfully without much interruption. For example, e-commerce companies are ensuring home delivery of essential materials and empowering people to shop from home and reduce the chances of catching/spreading the infection.

Technology empowerment has enabled masses to keep abreast of relevant news and information on a real time basis. The recent launch of the Aarogya Setu app by the Government is a sui generis initiative to help citizens protect themselves by tracking the proximity of infected people, access curated information and medical advisories from the Government  and enable them to self-assess on whether they need to go for a Coronavirus test or not.

Leading technology companies like TCS have gone further to deepen research and innovation by leveraging their technology platforms to develop medical solutions like patient tracker and a platform for a clinical trial system. While IT giants are working towards identifying solutions with the help of emerging technologies, start-ups, too, are looking for answers and working to create low-cost tools. Premier technology institutions, including the IITs and IISc are collaborating with AIIMS, ICMR and leading IT companies and technology start-ups, to build indigenous products such as high-quality masks, personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals, including hazmat suits and affordable ventilators. Individually, some leading IT companies have started collaborating with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies to speed up prototyping, getting approvals from the designated Government bodies for standard confirmation and mass production of required products to tackle the challenges raised by the pandemic. IT companies have taken the battle against the Coronavirus forward by focussing on the application of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and Data Analytics to rev up deeper understanding of the virus and its impact on humans. AI is primarily playing an enormous role in helping researchers accelerate study by analysing thousands of digital research papers and delivering conclusive information faster and AI-powered robots have now become part of the healthcare workforce fighting the pandemic. Indian IT companies are also cooperating with pharma companies to expedite the drug discovery process for the Coronavirus by reducing manual work and facilitating the potential of AI, ML and supercomputing to deliver faster results.

The Indian IT industry is in a better position to not only warrant business continuity to clients across the world but also its inherent strength in emerging technologies is complementing R&D, innovation and indigenous product development to handle the crisis triggered by the Coronavirus. At this critical point, the IT industry is the silver lining on the dark clouds looming over the country due to COVID-19.

(The writer is Director-General, Software Technology Parks of India)

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