The coronavirus saga isn't over and yet Big Tech, who have heavily benefited from the lockdowns, is already thinking about its response to the next one.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), including big tech companies such as Microsoft and Facebook, launched the Public Health Tech Initiative this week.
Apart from the aforementioned Big Tech companies, healthcare giants such as CVS Health, Northwell Health, and the American College of Cardiology will also be joining hands in the Public Health Tech Initiative. The sole purpose of the initiative is to understand how the current technology has tackled the initiative, where the scope for improvement lies, and to then to supposedly develop recommendations to better deal with upcoming health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We heard about some of the issues from the pandemic. The lack of access to care. Lack of access to technology. We were hearing that some of our public health authorities didn't have ready access to complete and accurate data. All of those things combined together just made us think that given who our members were, we could actually do something to address this in a meaningful way,” said Rene Quashie, the vice president of digital health at CTA, Protocol reported.
Although Google and Apple, for instance, have invested efforts to build contract-tracing apps, the government of the US has left it to the states to decide if they want to use or what app they'd want to use. As a result, the adaptation of technology for contract-tracing wasn't uniform across the US, preventing technological interventions and Big Tech wants a more unified, controlled response.
“It really shows the fragmented nature of healthcare and public health within the US. Understanding how tech can help streamline data flows would be advantageous, not just for the government, but for a lot of different groups,” said Garza, a member of the St. Louis' pandemic task force.
Simply put, the Public Health Tech Initiative is trying to develop methods whereby they can more easily deploy technology in the wake of a public health crisis or emergency.
A white paper will be produced, detailing all the findings – after which work with policymakers will begin. The alliance accused governments of having failed to fully leverage available technology in the current times of the coronavirus, and this initiative would present a number of interventions to successfully do so.