There has been no moment of need in modern times as urgent as what we face today as humanity grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.  In three months, the virus has spread to over 180 countries around the globe, infecting millions, and has arrested the largest and smallest of economies.  It has also created an unprecedented need for connectivity and communications.  Now, more than ever, unconventional thinking and leadership as well as innovative applications of technologies such as 5G are dire necessities for addressing the many COVID-19-related challenges that are disrupting millions of lives and jeopardizing trillions in economic value.

The epidemic curve presents a continuum of mission critical needs for innovations that can help us rapidly scale and flex our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like with any natural disaster, each phase of an epidemic requires specific responses in order to minimize economic damage and save lives.  Each country, each state, each city, each community has and will experience a different epidemic curve based on its demographics, the quality of its healthcare system, and its level of readiness and preparation.  However, all of these curves will share a common characteristic – a continuum of mission critical needs.

These needs will bring about novel applications that will prove critical in our response to and eventual control of the novel coronavirus.  In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a crucible for innovation in which transformative technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) will find an environment to thrive in the pursuit of saving lives.  The intense demand for mission critical solutions imagined and yet to be imagined will accelerate the value proposition and the application of these technologies that will help us kill the COVID-19 pandemic curve.  

Cross-domain, cross-industry collaboration and co-creation with governments are essential to the process of inventing novel solutions for combating a novel coronavirus.

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting humanity with unprecedented challenges that conventional approaches, tools, and thinking have proven insufficient in addressing at scale.  It is clear that novel solutions and a rethinking of response and recovery strategies are needed to deal with a global health crisis of this magnitude.  As an innovation catalyst, 5G can enable critical applications that will enable our emergency services, disease control agencies, and healthcare system to:

  • Improve the velocity and veracity of testing and case data  
  • Respond, coordinate, and deploy resources faster in every phase of the epidemic curve
  • Improve the scalability and adaptability of emergency response facilities and resources
  • Improve the safety and protection of healthcare, first responder and essential workers
  • Remotely administer enhanced care and share knowledge resources and expertise

5G innovation in response to COVID-19 is going to take industry and government leadership driven by the urgency to save lives and the economy.  It will take the initiative of creative, problem-solving industry leaders to bring the 5G ecosystem together with medical experts, government and public health agencies to develop novel solutions that we need now and in later phases of the epidemic curve.

Governments need to explore transformative technologies such as 5G and work with industry leaders to fast-track critical innovations and infrastructure to market.

Invention alone will not be enough.  Time is of the essence.  Once compelling ideas and solutions have been proposed and designed, 5G industry leaders should work with regulators, standards bodies and industry consortia to clear roadblocks to rapidly rolling out great solutions.

5G needs to be accelerated, not delayed.  The industry and government should collectively work to compress the timeline and advance the features and availability  of 5G with the kind of urgency that the moment warrants.  After all, the virus is not waiting to run its pandemic course.  Economically, we can’t afford to allow it to, so what are we waiting for?

In the Darkest Hour, It Is Time for Leaders to Lead.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo opined on April 10th at the state’s coronavirus press briefing, there are no experts, “Nobody has been here before.”  If no one is an expert, we will have to depend on problem solvers and innovators to figure out how we live with this virus while we await mass immunization.  There is no time like the present for leading tech companies to innovate and problem-solve in collaboration with government, public health, and emergency response agencies, regulators, and industry consortia to unleash the full potential of 5G.