Giving Compass' Take:

• Policies and oversight are necessary to oversee the technology aimed at responding to COVID-19. Innovations are coming in rapidly, but require monitoring. 

• How can donors play a role in funding technology and research for relief efforts? 

• Here are four ways that engineers are using technology to respond to COVID-19. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented public health crisis, presenting new and profound challenges on multiple fronts around the world. Throughout this period, the response from science, technology, and innovation communities has been remarkable, proving that innovation and learning, interdisciplinary methods and collaboration, information and data sharing, and adaptability are more important than ever.

New technological innovations—developed, trialled and implemented at considerable pace and scale—have been actively led and supported by governments, industry, and funders across the globe. For instance, in the UK, fast-track competitions focusing on industry innovations have been launched rapidly to respond to the extensive disruption caused by the pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, innovation centres and data science–inspired social enterprises are offering funding and support to technology projects that aim to address the social and economic impacts. And, the World Health Organisation is directly engaging with technology companies and experts to help design and deliver potential solutions.

The co-ordinated response and coming together of different stakeholders demonstrate how technology solutions can be quickly leveraged in effective ways, from innovations for tackling the public health crisis to technologies that focus on mitigating the wider impacts of the pandemic on society and the economy. Nevertheless, it is worth pausing to consider some of the potential risks and challenges associated with the technologies being developed and how they should be addressed so that society will benefit from the opportunities that emerging technologies offer.

Hence, it is vital that policymakers ensure effective science and technology oversight mechanisms are proactively and swiftly put in place factoring in the specific contexts (e.g., geographical, cultural, political, economic) within which the technologies are being developed and deployed. Effective oversight enables the risks associated with technological advances to be minimised but crucially ensures that long-term resilience and flexibility is built in by providing appropriate structures and conditions within which technologies can be nurtured for the benefit of society and the economy.

Read the full article about technology to fight for COVID-19 by  Salil Gunashekar and Emily Gloinson at RAND.