Tag Archives Covid-19

How Covid-19 Responses Speeded the Adoption of Digital Technologies

The Covid-19 Pandemic led to accelerated uptake of different digital technologies in a way that was unforeseen. Some estimates say that the world has taken a 10-year leap in terms of digital technology adoption. Today we have seamless cloud meetings, online learning, several health monitoring tools, booming e-commerce, automated manufacturing, better supply chain systems and many more.

Some of the technologies already existed, while others are recent innovations by people responding to the pandemic. Many of these have now gained widespread acceptance. How did this happen?

The disruption caused by Covid-19 led to a turning point that promoted the adoption of new technologies. Usually, new technologies go through an adoption lifecycle that starts with innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. With a disruptive event, the time it takes for the early and late majority to onboard is short, hence a technology can gain massive acceptance within a very short time.


The timing of the Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportune time for use of digital technologies. The world had become more connected with affordable broadband internet connection is available in many places. The availability of smartphones also made it easy to use digital technologies even in areas where computers are not available.

With this background, digital technologies could thrive. Developers went for digital tools to respond to various challenges such as contact tracing. The government needed ways to keep track of vaccine distribution. Shops needed to keep selling even when communities were in lockdown. Schools needed to keep teaching even when physical school attendance was limited. Solutions lay in digital technologies.  

The nature of the pandemic also helped to encourage digital interventions. Covid-19 is spread majorly by close contact to an infected person. This called for limiting physical interactions and public gathering – the very things that are crucial for human existence. To compensate for these, digital technologies could be used to connect people where physical meetings were not possible. E-commerce was necessary if people were not to go to malls as before. Many technologies to make this possible existed, but had not received widespread adoption.

Digital technologies are also at the center of public health responses needed to fight Covid-19. The table below shows examples of digital technologies in public health intervention.

Covid-19 Responses in Kenya

In Kenya, the government implemented several responses to slow down the spread of Covid-19. Some of these include:

  • Requiring physical distancing in all places.
  • Enforcement of dawn to dusk curfew.
  • Restriction of movement from some geographical locations.
  • Closure of schools.
  • Requirement for people not providing essential services to work from home.
  • Ban on mass gatherings.
  • Active disease surveillance.
  • Economic stimulus packages to employers and employees.
  • Encouraging the use of non-cash transactions.

Many of these responses involved the use of digital technologies to implement, or to help cope with the new normal.

Adoption of Digital Technologies

With the closure of schools, learning was supposed to take place remotely, something that had barely been happening before (except in some Universities). This meant that teachers and students needed to get creative and find out what could work in their context. They used cloud meeting platforms to conduct classes where the Internet was available and students could afford the necessary devices. Teachers had to learn how to use the different platforms and many acquired crucial digital skills. In some cases, they had to improvise and use platforms such as WhatsApp.

This exposure to digital technologies is very useful in the sense that it makes them open to adopting other digital technologies. Running a successful online class gives the teacher the confidence to adopt other technologies, and even continue using the same after the pandemic.

With reduced income and job losses, many people tried their hand in business. This led to many people setting up their own websites and online shops to allow buyers to access their products online. Faced with a different operating environment, many businesses moved online in 2020. This is another way that people were introduced to digital technologies.

There was also an upsurge in the use of cashless payment solutions. In Kenya, the Central Bank negotiated for reduced tariffs for mobile money services, as well as free movement of money from mobile wallets to the bank and vice versa. This led to an increase in the use of cashless transactions and it become normal for small traders to accept payment via mobile money. This is likely to remain even in the post-pandemic world.

The use of digital technologies to track vaccine rollout in Kenya is also a significant step forward in managing healthcare. This could set the stage for more ehealth functions when people see the need for it. Already, there are businesses that are working to make telemedicine a possibility in Kenya.

Reduced movement of people led to a boom in eCommerce. Some people who had never ordered goods or services online found themselves with little or no option, and many are now open to shopping online and having their goods delivered without having to physically visit the stores.

The need to work remotely forced people to invest in different tools to make this a reality. This led to an increase in internet usage, and people were buying more equipment such as smartphones and computers. Home internet connections increased, and these opened possibilities for the adoption of more digital technologies.


The Covid-19 pandemic may have forced people to result to digital technologies to solve their most pressing needs, but the results will outlast the Covid-19. We will see a world that is more open to digital technologies and also developers focusing on more of these technologies. This is one positive outcome of the pandemic.


The Role of Tech Companies in Amplifying Misinformation and Disinformation that Surrounds the Covid-19 Pandemic

Posted on 4 min read

Infodemic has been a word that is closely related to the Covid-19 pandemic. As the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread and turned into a pandemic, an information epidemic has been going on in the world; what is now referred to as the infodemic. This refers to a rapid and far-reaching spread of both accurate and inaccurate information about Covid-19, making it hard to learn essential information about the pandemic. This is the current state of the world.

Behind the infodemic is the use of technology that has made it possible for anybody to widely share information, disinformation and misinformation. In today’s world, anybody can share information with a global audience using platforms such as social media. This has made it possible for conspiracy theories, fake news, propaganda or even hoaxes to spread easily. Some of this has made it hard to fight the spread of Covid-19 as people cannot tell what is true and what is false.

What role do technology companies play in this?

Tech companies dictate how people consume information. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter and others have taken over the place of traditional media and their mode of operation has made it easier to share inaccurate information. As we will see, the way these tech platforms are designed to work is what makes them good channels for misinformation and disinformation.

Creating Filter Bubbles

A major selling point of tech-based media companies is the ability to customize content for every person, thus delivering specific content and of interest to each user. This approach has helped tech companies to grow because the users only receive what they want to see and hear, unlike the traditional media where one size was offered to fit all.

Unfortunately, this approach has serious undoing. Customized content means that one can avoid anything contrary to what they want to hear, and still be fed with an endless stream of what they need. People only get to see information that they want and opposing voices are gradually suppressed. You get to see information that aligns with your believes and worldviews, even if it is wrong.

This has helped fan misinformation and disinformation because objective facts are shunned in favor of content that will generate likes and clicks. Recommendation engines give users what they want to see, not what is truthful or factual. This works closely with another innate behaviour of human beings to seek facts that confirm what they already or want to believe.

Confirmation Bias

At the onset of the pandemic, people were looking for answers and narratives to help explain what was happening. Some turned to science, others to pseudo-science, and others to conspiracy theories. The origin of the virus, the mode of transmission, how it was spreading from one region to another and whether the virus was a natural occurrence or a bio weapon were all a matter of speculation.

People formed opinions and narratives to make sense of the world. They would then go online to find information about the same. When they found information that matched with what they already believed, the belief was strengthened further. Consequently, some conspiracy theories gained more momentum through online sources. People believed that 5G networks were the cause of Covid-19, and there was enough content online to support this. Others said that Africans were immune to the virus and there were online communities talking about this.

By helping people confirm what they already assumed, tech companies helped spread misinformation and disinformation.

Celebrity Voices/Influencers

Celebrities and influencers have a lot of influence on societies today. They can bypass the traditional media and pass their message to millions of people using various tools such as social media.

Unfortunately, the information they pass may not be very accurate, and at times it might be completely wrong. Tech companies were at loss trying to figure out what to do with such people, and the Covid-19 pandemic made things worse. The problem is that when these influential people share information, it is believed by many people who look up to them.

Content Moderation

An attempt to regulate the kind of information shared on tech platforms has a serious downside. It is hard to regulate content in a post-truth society, where everything is relative. This is why tech companies did not know what to do with the problem of fake news, until after the pandemic and the 2020 US Election.

Moderation is still a problem because of many factors. The number of users is large. There are also many languages. Political interests exist and some matters are heavily disputed, even among the experts. It is also a delicate matter of freedom of speech because a free society needs space even for dissenting opinions. As Natan Sharansky puts it, free societies are societies in which the right of dissent is protected.

Technology companies should have foreseen that and planned on what to do early enough. Instead of waiting to act when the world was faced with a matter of life and death, there should have been some preset guidelines.


Dangers of Tech-driven Solutions to Covid-19

Posted on 5 min read

Whenever disruption happens, the ability to withstand the disruption is dependent on the capacity to adapt to the new normal. People and organizations seek tools and resources that can make it easier for them to adapt, making it possible for them to survive the tough times. This was the case with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the world was disrupted, people turned to technology as a tool to help them cope with the new normal. Technology helped the world continue working away from the office, get shopping and supplies delivered to homes, maintain social distance, monitor vaccine rollout, perform contact tracing, share news about the spread of the virus, keep students learning, and many more. Without tech solutions, it would have been harder for the world to cope.

However, there are some downsides to the use of technology in mitigating the impacts of Covid-19 and helping people cope. We look at how tech-driven solutions were applied after Covid-19 and some of the dangers that they pose to users.

Privacy Concerns

Contact tracing and social distancing apps have been used to help monitor people for contact with people infected with the virus. This is a key step to curbing the spread of Covid-19, considering that the primary means of spread is through exposure to infected persons. Since it was hard to know if the people you came into contact with were carrying the virus, the apps would let one know if they had come into contact with a person who later turned positive. This is a useful piece of technology helping with contact tracing.

However, the use of these tools has not been without a downside. There was a lot of concern about user privacy with these tech-driven solutions. First, the Big Tech has not been known to be very privacy-conscious, unless when pushed to do be so. Some of the business models employed by tech companies are dependent on not being very stringent on privacy, and privacy concerns have majorly been implemented as afterthoughts. This raises concern that most tech companies cannot be trusted to make decisions that put users first, as far as privacy is concerned.

Tech-driven solutions helped to offer information and contact tracing service

Would these tech-driven solutions compromise privacy? Already, we have seen people raise concerns that tools that are logging location and sharing it with third parties could be a concern. However, technology companies worked to assure people that their data was safe. Would people believe that? Not everybody.

This was about contact tracing, but there are other areas of concern when it comes to privacy. A different application is tools that have been used to monitor exams remotely. While these have made it easier for remote learning to continue, most users were not aware of how such tools work. The tools are invasive and users should have been educated on how to ensure that their privacy is catered for during and after the exams.

Exclusion and Digital Divide

In the world today, technology seems to be everywhere, especially when we look from the perspective of tech-savvy people and digital natives. However, this is not a very accurate depiction of the world today. There are still many people who lag behind in terms of technology adoption.

In Kenya, it is not easy to implement digital technologies in rural areas. Some areas are limited by infrastructure. Digital literacy is also low and income levels are also wanting. These are some of the hindrances that tech driven solutions to Covid-19 would need to overcome.

With this background, it is evident that some people will not benefit from many tech driven interventions. People without smartphones cannot use contact tracing apps. People without mobile phones may not be alerted when their second dose of vaccine is due. Those without power may not be aware about the spread of Covid-19 because they do not have access to the news.

Technology could easily lead to exclusion because people do not have access to the same resources. A classic example is the education sector, where there were attempts to make learning online in Kenya, but with mixed results. Children from wealthy backgrounds have access to the internet and computers, making it easy for them to keep learning even when schools are closed. On the other hand, students from poor backgrounds couldn’t afford to be online. The longer the schools were closed, the poorer children continued to be disadvantaged. While technology was hailed as a game changer in the age of Covid-19, the same technology was helping widen the inequality levels.

Making Tech Driven Solutions Work

The problems highlighted above are unintended consequences of technology-driven solutions. This means that they can be worked around so that tech solutions can be more accessible and inclusive, and the welfare of users is taken care of.

One of the approaches is to control the influence and participation of for-profit companies in designing and implementing these tech solutions. Public health solutions need to be spearheaded by the institutions that primarily deal with public health and not tech companies. This will ensure that commercial interests do not override the safety concerns of the users.

The use of tech driven solutions should not be taken as a master fix in solving Covid-19 related problems. They need to be supplemented with other solutions so that not part of the society will be excluded due to lack of resources, connectivity or skills. For example, the approach to remote learning involved the use of different technologies and tools. Teachers could use WhatsApp because more students had it. Learning programs were also put on radio and TV, increasing the reach. That was also not enough because some people would still be left out. At one point, the government was asking teachers to teach in their estates and villages. This was an attempt to get all students covered.

Technology is good and goes a long way in helping the world cope with the pandemic. However, the possible negative and unintended consequences must be put into consideration for a better experience.


Impact of Covid-19 on the Emerging Technology Development

One of the positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic is the accelerated the uptake of new technologies that would have taken longer to be adopted. For both corporations and individuals, the technological leap has been remarkable.

Virtual meetings have been normalized and there has been an increase in uptake of cashless transactions. Remote working and cloud solutions are now common words. For corporates, the leap has been huge. Reports show that corporates have accelerated the digitization of their internal operations by up to three or four years. In creating digitally enhanced offerings, some companies have made leaps of up to ten years. It is like the world has made a ten-year leap in the form of technology adoption. All this is thanks to the pandemic.

Tech Adoption Fueling Development

How did the increased uptake of different technologies during the pandemic impact the development of the same?

Usually, user adoption is one of the factors that dictate the speed of development of new technologies. One classic example is the cloud meeting service provider Zoom which existed before the pandemic. Zoom was a little-known company before the pandemic struck. Once Covid-19 hit, social distancing measures and limits on physical gatherings meant that people could not meet as often as was necessary. Zoom had its big moment when it emerged as the market leader in cloud meetings.

But that was just a start. The Zoom that was before the pandemic is not the Zoom that we have today. It has undergone a lot of changes to suit mass usage. It is now more secure to use. Zoom can allow conferences to run smoothly. It has mechanisms for registration and to prevent meeting gate crashing (Zoombombing). Other meeting cloud meeting providers such as Meet, Skype, Teams and others have also undergone intensive development to make them easier to use. All this has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 and Emerging Technologies

The rapid development of new technologies triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is not limited to cloud meeting solutions. Individuals and corporates have been looking for solutions in the areas of education, healthcare, production, business, productivity, research and development, among others.

This has led to rapid use of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. Today, we see the Big Tech rushing into the world of virtual reality and increasingly talking about the metaverse. This is in anticipation that the world will need to embrace virtual reality even more, with Covid-19 having acted as a dry run.

The supply of goods and services was also widely disrupted by Covid-19, with both manufacturing and supply chain systems taking a direct hit. Consequently, more firms are embracing increased automation to guard against such disruptive events. Labor shortage is being mitigated by the use of cobots and this has opened an opportunity for the growth of the automation industry.

Robotics has also found useful applications and accelerated development. A case example is Boston Dynamics creating robots that helped reduce exposure of frontline health workers to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Another technology that has received a shot in the arm from Covid-19 is the 5G technology. As people moved to work from home and cloud meetings became more necessary, robust communication networks were necessary to ensure that people remained connected. One such technology is the 5G network, which allows for better internet speeds and more devices to be connected to the internet. The period after the pandemic marked a huge growth in the adoption of 5G technologies.

There are many other cases of technology application driven by Covid-19. Online civic education has accelerated. Online entertainment services such as Netflix had tremendous growth. Ecommerce and food delivery services peaked. Chatbots have been used to provide Covid-19 related information, as well as for mental health support. Hospitals started using robots to minimize human contact. 3D printing helped to quickly produce components for ventilators. Drones have found a place in delivery services. The list is long.

Kenyan Context

Locally, EdTech startups are experiencing momentous growth. Parents and schools are finding it necessary to employ AI-based learning platforms that can provide an individualized learning plan for their children. AI-based learning platform M-Shule has experienced remarkable growth. In areas where skills and resources have not enabled remote learning, people are working on simple solutions that can work on basic phones and do not consume a lot of resources. A case example is the growth of the M-Lugha app which is helping students in Northern Kenya to continue learning even when schools are closed.

In the health sector, startups like AfyaRekod employ AI and various blockchain modules to help health facilities work around health data. Covid-19 pandemic made their services even more necessary as people adopted e-health, something that was picking up sluggishly before the pandemic. As this happens, more health startups are focusing on the same.


The impact of all these is people are exposed to new technologies, and developers start to focus on these people since they have increased capacity to use different technologies. The other direct impact is that prompted by the pandemic, there are more venture capitalists committed to investing in the same areas. This further fuels the adoption of several of these emerging technologies locally and globally.

It is not easy to precisely quantify the extent to which Covid-19 has impacted the development and adoption of many of these emerging technologies, but there is a clear indication that it has increased both adoption and development. Technologically, the pandemic has helped the world leapfrog several years ahead.