COVID affected all our lives, even the people who didn't get infected. We didn't know that the pandemic would go on for this long back in 2019. But we did know that until a vaccine arrived, we had to be creative to prevent getting infected.
While social distancing worked for a while, an economy can't run in a closed country. So it became important to track people by location and time to find people who had contact with anyone infected. And technology was right there to help us.
Here in Sri Lanka, a unique QR code was assigned to every public place. People were meant to scan it and provide their information. This made it easier for people to check-in and out while helping health professionals to track down people who might have been exposed to the virus. As opposed to just writing down your name and a contact number in a book.
With the checking in and out process centralized, PCR tests were prioritized for those who were in the same vicinity as an identified covid patient. This reduced wasteful false alarms and the need to do random checkups. Which in turn saved medical supplies and man-hours of medical professionals that can be better utilized to identify and treat actual covid patients.
Treatments of patients and vaccinations are great. But as the past few months have proved, avoiding misinformation was just as hard as avoiding the coronavirus. And the mask we have to put on on our eyes is news from reliable and updated sources. Both factors are equally important as even the most reliable information is worthless when outdated.
Although there are old-fashioned ways of getting reliable news such as watching the news on tv or reading newspapers, a day is plenty of time for most of this important information to be outdated. But then again technology saves the day. Here in Sri Lanka, we have a government-associated app that shows how many covid patients are in 500m and a 1km radius of your exact location. It respected the privacy of patients by keeping data purely statistical while issuing a warning to everyone nearby, so they would be extra cautious.
Unrelated to covid this app also shows the same kind of statistics about Dengue. Even though it is nontransferable, having a high number of Dengue patients nearby shows that you may need to take another look at your environment to see if there are possible breeding spots of mosquitoes.
Coming back to covid this app allows its users to register for covid vaccination, read statistics about daily nationwide confirmed covid cases and most importantly find contact details of their area's public health inspector.
In conclusion, these simple apps and frameworks made a huge difference for the people and health professionals. It made information more accessible in a time where any physical interaction was a risk and by doing so helped to lower the risk of people getting infected. And without centralized contact tracing, most people wouldn't even have known that they were exposed before they start showing symptoms. And that is what SDG 3 is all about; Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. And I think technology will help us get there faster and sustainably.