What is the World Economic Forum doing about epidemics?

5. They’re sharing tech solutions to accelerate medical responses.

Some companies are developing or sharing their technological tools to support preparedness and response for this outbreak and future epidemics.

For example, to expand the supply capacity of virus detection products and accelerate the testing processes, the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) of China has significantly simplified procedures for the approval of testing kits and gene-sequencing systems. BGI has also scaled up the production of its testing kits and donated them to Wuhan and established the Huoyan Laboratory, an emergency test laboratory that aims to speed up the testing of cases.

Alibaba Cloud has offered AI computing capabilities to public research institutions for free to support virus gene sequencing, new drug R&D and protein screenings. Baidu has opened up LinearFold, its RNA prediction algorithm, to genetic testing agencies, epidemic prevention centres and research institutes around the world. Neusoft Medical donated high-end CT scanners, AI medical imaging, cloud platform and remote advanced post-processing software to hospitals in Wuhan. Infervision launched a “Coronavirus AI solution,” an AI software for front-line clinicians to detect and monitor the disease on CT scans.

While it’s important to consider the short-term benefits of these technological solutions, some efforts, such as companies launching fever detection systems with AI and thermal-imaging technology in major railway stations, also raise questions about long-term governance of these technologies.

Moving forward

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020, the interconnectedness of our global business supply chains has made the world more vulnerable to societal and economic disruption from local infectious-disease outbreaks.

This epidemic will not be the last. Even as we fight this “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC), we must build on these examples to prepare for the risk and impact of a global pandemic.

Angela Ma, Community Lead, China Business Council and Forum Members, Greater China, and Wen Mao, Project Lead, Precision Medicine, collaborated in the creation of this article.