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Intellectual discourse Post-COVID 19: Technology catalyzing how to research and disseminate

Cancellations and postponements were the early reactions of the intellectual class throughout the globe to cope with the ensuing COVID 19 pandemic but the intellectual discourse is fast adapting to live with the pandemic. The communities having better access to the internet and affordable data are leading the intellectual discourse by using the latest technological innovations to fight back the global crisis.

COE-EDPCOE-EDP | Updated: 09-05-2020 06:19 IST | Created: 09-05-2020 06:19 IST
Intellectual discourse Post-COVID 19: Technology catalyzing how to research and disseminate
Representative Image Image Credit: Flicker

COVID 19 pandemic is not just a health crisis but its impacts are multidimensional. There is no known aspect of human life on this planet that is not impacted by the ensuing novel coronavirus pandemic and the global lockdown caused by it. The intellectual discourse is no exception.

It came as a wave that completely stalled all the previously popular modes of intellectual discourse based on huge gatherings such as seminars, conferences, workshops, etc. The reputed forums worldwide were forced to cancel or postpone their scheduled events of intellectual discourse, however, technological innovations soon emerged as propellers that will continue to impact knowledge sharing and research, which is a prerequisite for intellectual discourse. Besides, the pandemic has also ignited technological innovations to update the existing technologies and present new ones that will have a huge impact on intellectual discourse in the future.

Impacts of the pandemic on modes of intellectual discourse

Intellectual gatherings on a designated venue have become a tale of the passé. The educational institutions, universities, international organizations, and even the UN bodies have started organizing virtual events of intellectual discourse wherein experts share their ideas, opinions, and research papers as well.

The World Bank is conducting a series of e-seminars since April 1 on various topics in reference to the development landscape titled 'Development Policy and COVID-19|eSeminar Series' to which the complete schedule has been finalized till May 19. Here, almost every aspect of development such as microeconomics, macroeconomics, poverty, politics, public policy, marginalized communities, labor, and migration, etc., are being taken up for discussion. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Seoul Policy Center for Knowledge Exchange through SDG Partnerships also organized a series of webinars on 'Post-COVID 19: Implications for International (Development) Cooperation' on April 9, 14 and 16.

Similarly, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has decided to go online to host ADB Asia Clean Energy Forum 2020 on 15-19 June. The event is being organized in association with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Korea Energy Agency (KEA). Earlier, ADB had also canceled and postponed some major events of intellectual discourse. Several institutions throughout the globe have started hosting online seminars with different names such as e-seminars or webinars on various technological platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Webex, JioRo, Asama, Slack, Skype, and Facebook Live, etc. Due to the high-quality technological innovations, the intellectual status of these virtual events is no less than the actual events but the menu and pleasure of traveling.

Research Dashboards replacing Repositories

Besides drastically impacting the events of intellectual discourse, the COVID 19 pandemic has set up a revolution in the field of non-event intellectual discourse as well by creating huge repositories and research dashboards. The World Health Organization (WHO) is managing 'Global Research on Coronavirus Disease (COVID 19)' where daily updates are available about almost all the ongoing researches on COVID 19 from throughout the world. The information is not only confined to clinical trials but also about the response and resilience researches being conducted in different languages. This is a huge revolution in the field of knowledge sharing as the researchers throughout the world are being provided daily updates about research on a particular topic across the languages from throughout the globe. With this, there is almost no scope of repeating mistakes and groping in the dark. The researchers can now plan their researches better and share their achievements on a daily basis to the world.

But, this is not a standalone dashboard. The UNDP is also operating two data dashboards – Dashboard 1 on Preparedness and Dashboard 2 on Vulnerabilities - based on the data of 189 member countries of the UN. On the basis of data related to the level of development, poverty, economic inequalities, healthcare system, and internet connectivity; the UNDP has developed indicators to assess the preparedness and vulnerabilities of the UN member countries to COVID 19. As the virus is highly contagious, internet penetration and affordable data are playing crucial roles in preparedness and response plans against the outbreak of the disease. UNDP is also planning to roll out the social and economic recovery plan of the UN in 162 countries and territories in the next 12 to 18 months under the leadership of UN Resident Coordinators (RC). The UN has assigned the UNDP to spearhead the plan in an integrated manner by drawing on all the UN assets locally and globally.

Research publications and institutions have also taken up initiatives such as SAGE journals has dedicated special page for Coronavirus (COVID 19) Research, researchgate.net operating COVID 19 Research Community, Geneva Center for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action created a page for 'COVID 19 Scientific Resources', Devdiscourse running an online awareness campaign by continuously tracking the COVID-19 related news stories and Github's COVID 19 Social Science Research Tracker. Similarly, several other platforms are being run on the internet to provide updates about researches on COVID 19 from various perspectives.

Impact on Research

The researches on the COVID 19 could be broadly classified into two categories – short term studies aimed at enhancing the response plan to fight the pandemic; and long term studies with an objective to develop resilience against unseen disease outbreaks and climate disasters in the future.

The high contagiousness nature of the virus has impacted almost every aspect of research but most importantly data collection. It has caused a revolution overnight and ushered us in a new world where data collection, analysis, policy-making, and implementation are being performed simultaneously with the help of AI (Artificial Intelligence) based technological innovations. They include interactive websites, dashboards, mobile apps, teleport, or work from home technologies and various techniques to implement social distancing to prevent infection. Besides, the location-based data and AI-based technologies are also being used in surveillance, monitoring, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and clinical researches on COVID 19. The location-based real-time data are also being used in public healthcare communication, public transport, traffic management including pedestrian management, supply chain, maintaining essential supplies, security arrangements, and administration.

Now, the development experts and researchers across disciplines are unanimous that the pandemic is going to change the world permanently. There will be a long term impact of the pandemic and the lockdown caused by it. The researchers are now focussing on assessing the impact of COVID 19 on various sectors and developing plans for revival and resilience which is visible in the form of increased investments in pandemic response and resilience projects. ADB has tripled the COVID 19 response package to $ 20 billion while the World Bank has announced $12 billion immediate support in addition to several other facilities. India's nodal agency for research in social sciences - Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) has announced special projects to study the impact of COVID 19 in various sectors.

These situations are highly favorable to the technological innovations that were spearheading the fourth industrial revolution. However, the impact will be more on research in social sciences related to various aspects of human behavior from education to healthcare to sustainable living to climate action. But, here lies the scope for policy formulations to achieve the development objectives. The huge amount of the data being generated due to the lockdown will transform the research in social sciences.

Survival of Academic Institutions

Academic institutions such as research institutes, colleges, and universities, are considered as the backbone of research in any country and also for international organizations. These institutions will have to change drastically and align their researches as per the requirements of the post-COVID 19 world. They will have to develop sustainable solutions for classroom teaching as well as evaluation.

Besides, adapting to the changing circumstances, academies will have to come up with viable solutions for the industries as well. Here lies the scope for collaborations and mutual growth. The businesses across sectors have been hit hard due to the lockdown caused by the COVID 19 pandemic. According to the US-based market researcher MarketsandMarkets, the business leaders throughout the world have set up 'war rooms' to fight the impacts of COVID 19. In addition to the public and private sectors, the data being generated due to the pandemic will impact international relations, international trade, and geopolitics for decades to come. It's due to the instantaneous nature of the new data, the entire repository of pre-pandemic data will be of only historical importance for policy formulation in the post-COVID 19 world.

The Way Ahead

The Internet has emerged as a basic requirement to fight against the COVID 19 pandemic. According to UNDP, 85.5 percent of the global population does not have access to reliable broadband internet. Besides restricting the response plan of economies to fight the pandemic, the digital divide, is also adversely impacting education in those communities which will put them in a vicious cycle of poverty. Bridging the digital divide and ensuring affordable internet should be the top priority for developing and underdeveloped countries. This will not only improve their preparedness to combat disease outbreaks in the future but also ensure effective implementation of public policies. Besides, the internet has also emerged as a fundamental requirement of research which is a prerequisite for development.

COVID 19 pandemic has devastated several developing economies and posed the question of survival before them. The UN has estimated income losses of about $ 220 billion in developing countries that will cause severe poverty, unemployment, and increase inequalities. These impacts will reverberate across societies, impacting education, human rights, and, in the most severe cases, basic food security, and nutrition. The UNDP's led COVID 19 Rapid Response Facility has initiated assistance to the developing countries with $ 20 million but it is minuscule in comparison to the $ 500 million support required by 100 developing countries to revive from the devastation caused by the pandemic. The world community needs to fight the crisis with solidarity wherein developed countries and international organizations should bear the responsibility to help out developing economies.

Centre of Excellence on Emerging Development Perspectives (COE-EDP) is an initiative of VisionRI and aims to keep track of the transition trajectory of global development and works towards conceptualization, development, and mainstreaming of innovative developmental approaches, frameworks, and practices.

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