The Intersection of COVID-19 and Information Technology

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The Intersection of
COVID-19 and
Information Technology

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00018007

Publication Date: 2108

Report Type: TUTORIAL


While primarily a health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic produced a
financial crisis: shuttering businesses, producing mass unemployment, and
threatening the well-being of millions – perhaps billions – of people
worldwide. While world economies are slowly recovering, thanks primarily
to the development of safe and effective vaccines, the effects of the
pandemic may linger for years. If there is a proverbial “silver lining,”
it lies in the fact that the impact of COVID-19 could have been worse if
not for the Information Revolution. Leveraging information technologies
developed over the past thirty years, IT specialists are working to arrest
the spread of the virus and permit employees to work from the safety of
their homes and other remote locations.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that helped spawn today’s COVID-19
pandemic – the worst public health crisis since the so-called “Spanish
flu” of 1918 – continues its relentless worldwide spread. While a number
of pharmaceutical firms, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson &
Johnson, have produced safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, a combination
of factors, principally, vaccine hesitancy and production limitations,
have enabled large populations – even in developed countries like the
United States – to remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to infection.

Faulkner Reports
5G Technology Market
Digital Twin Tutorial
Web Conferencing Market
Trends Market

While primarily a health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic produced a
financial crisis: shuttering businesses, producing mass unemployment,
and threatening the well-being of millions – perhaps billions – of
people worldwide. While world economies are slowly recovering, thanks
primarily to the development of safe and effective vaccines, the effects
of the pandemic may linger for years. If there is a proverbial “silver
lining,” it lies in the fact that the impact of COVID-19 could be worse
if not for the Information Revolution.

Over the past thirty years, information technologists have offered
unprecedented scientific and engineering advances like the Internet,
e-commerce, and smartphones, which, among other advantages, have
facilitated the formation of virtual workplaces and permitted “social
distancing,” one of the two public health policies (along with
mask-wearing) most responsible for limiting COVID-19 disease

While virologists were busy engineering COVID-19 vaccines, information
technologists developed new digital methods for:

  • Conducting large-scale virtual meetings, even conferences
  • Replacing critical in-person appointments, like physician consultations,
    with remote sessions, like telemedicine briefings
  • Securing enterprise information that transits makeshift home offices and
    consumer-grade devices
  • Reducing congestion in public spaces via proximity warning devices
  • Allowing students to engage with each other and their teachers while
    studying at home
  • Performing COVID-19 contact tracing and supporting quarantine operations

COVID-19 has influenced the growth of certain technologies, such as:

  • Entertainment content streaming (through vehicles like Netflix and
  • Machine learning and robotics, to compensate for the loss or
    unavailability of human labor
  • 5G networking, to expedite high-volume data downloads

Overall, the pace and direction of COVID-19-related IT development and
deployment initiatives will be determined by progress on the medical
front. Currently, the more transmissible and more deadly Delta variant
is ravaging Florida, Texas, and other states where large segments of the
population are resistant to vaccination and local political leaders
claim that mandatory mask-wearing is an infringement on their
constituents’ constitutional rights.

Notwithstanding the known and unknown obstacles ahead, according to the
Business Roundtable, a 2020 CEO trade group survey revealed that most
CEOs expected business conditions to recover by the end of 2021. About
one in four (27 percent), however, expected the recovery to stretch
beyond 2021.1

Importantly, business leaders – and the tech leaders upon whom they
rely – understand that COVID-19 is not a disaster of short duration nor
confined consequences. In fact, other COVID-19-like viruses may infect
us in the future. As analyst Ed Yong opines ominously, “Despite its
epochal effects, COVID-19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to

The Intersection of COVID-19 and IT

As much as medical interventions, the effective and potentially
protracted management of COVID-19 and subsequent biological emergencies
will depend on the innovative use of information technologies –
technologies arrayed to combat the spread of COVID-19 or promote
COVID-19-compatible business models, such as work-at-home or workplace
automation. In some cases, like workplace automation, COVID-19 offers a
perverse rationale for accelerating existing programs aimed at workforce
reduction, particularly as the price of protecting human workers

Table 1 offers an overview of common COVID-19 management objectives and
the various technologies supporting these objectives. Frequently, as
with the virtual office, multiple technologies are used to fashion a
single COVID-19 “solution.”

Table 1. The Intersection of COVID-19 and IT

COVID-19 Objective

Supporting Information Technologies and
Related Systems & Services

COVID-19 Preparedness &

– Information technologies are being used in various
combinations to identify, treat, and monitor the movements of
COVID-19 victims.

Smartphones & Smartphone Apps

Wearable Devices (like smart watches)

Digital Thermometers

Thermal Cameras

Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

IP Digital Surveillance (cameras and

Facial Recognition

Quick Response (QR) Codes to serve as
health status certificates or travel passes

Telemedicine Platforms

Machine Learning/Artificial
Intelligence Apps

Virtual Office Management
& Maintenance
– Information technologies are
being used to establish and maintain home office and other
remote working capabilities, providing a safe atmosphere for
knowledge workers.

Smartphone, Smartphone Apps &
Optional Landline

High-Speed Internet Connection (5G

Virtual Private Network (VPN) or
other secure employee-enterprise tunnel

Anti-Malware Software Suite with auto
update support

Cloud Data Backup with auto backup

Video/Audio Conferencing Software

Collaboration Platforms

Two-Factor Authentication Software

Document Destruction Service

Centrally-Monitored Home/Facility
Security System

Social Distancing &
– Information technologies are being
used to support social distancing mandates by eliminating – or
reducing the need for – physical interactions between people.

Smartphone & Smartphone Apps

Contactless Authentication Software

Exposure Notifications System (Google
and Apple)

COVID-19 Wristbands (e.g., Kinexon

Food Delivery Services (e.g., Google
Meet, Amazon Fresh)

Content Streaming Services (e.g.,
Netflix, Amazon)

Package Delivery Services (e.g.,
Fedex, UPS)

Video/Audio Conferencing Software
(e.g., Zoom, Cisco Webex)

Remote Working Software

Distance Learning Software

Exercise Equipment/Software (e.g.,
Peleton, NordicTrack)

Gaming/Virtual Reality Software

“Smart Home” Software

Robotic Household Appliances (e.g,
Roomba, Robomow)

Workplace Automation
– Information technologies are being used to reduce enterprise
reliance on at-risk employees.

Articulated Robots

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Delivery Drones

Security Robots

The Impact of COVID-19 On the IT Industry

IT Industry revenue, projected at around $190 billion for 2020-2021,
should grow to $300-350 billion by 2025. The Cloud Software and
Digital Platform markets will witness the fastest expansion due to the
rapid embrace of telework by enterprise officials.3

IT Industry Positives and the Negatives

According to two academics, Esam Elgohary and Reham Oncy Abdelazyz,
the COVID-19 pandemic has produced both IT Industry positives and

On the plus side of the ledger:

  • The demand for information technology increased suddenly and
    dramatically due to the need to provision and support remote working
    and remote learning initiatives.
  • The IT demand was particularly pronounced for the
    Telecommunications, Education, Public Service, Healthcare, and
    Digital Entertainment sectors.
  • E-commerce and E-retailing experienced a boom, with a threefold
    increase in customer numbers and revenue in 2020.

On the minus side:

  • The demand for IT devices witnessed a decline due to supply chain
    disruptions and the tendency of many enterprises to close or work
  • Many technology conferences were cancelled, meaning many
    enterprises lost valuable info tech partnership and sales
  • The slowdown in employment will likely affect the future flow of
    skilled workers, causing enterprises to potentially “struggle” with
    growing customer needs.4

COVID-19 Technologies
and Applications

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COVID-19 is spurring the development of major information technologies and
applications, with advances in disease detection and patient treatment already

COVID-19 Technologies

COVID-19 is stimulating interest in a variety of emerging or evolving
information technologies, with each as an element in erecting an
enduring pandemic defense and survival strategy. These “COIVID-19
technologies” will aid in:

  • Disease Detection
  • Patient Treatment
  • Process Automation
  • Remote Worker Support

Expect major COVID-19 contributions from research related to:

  • The Internet of Behaviors (IoB)
  • 5G
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR)
  • Total Experience (TX)
  • Blockchain
  • Distributed Cloud
  • Hyperautomation
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML) 5

COVID-19 Detection

Research published by The Lancet reveals that information
technology plays an essential role in COVID-19 planning and response.
Primary functions include subject (or, potentially, patient) screening
to determine whether a particular individual has been exposed to
COVID-19, and contact tracing to identify and track those who may have
infected or been infected by a particular individual.

Table 2. Information Technologies Utilized in COVID-19



Information Technologies




Subject Screening

Screens individuals and populations
for disease

Artificial intelligence;
digital thermometers; mobile phone applications; thermal
cameras; web-based toolkits

China; Iceland; Singapore; Taiwan

Provides information on disease
prevalence and pathology; identifies individuals for
testing, contact tracing, and isolation

Could breach privacy; fails to
detect asymptomatic individuals if based on self-reported
symptoms or monitoring of vital signs; involves high costs;
requires management and regulation; requires validation of
screening tools

Contact Tracing

Identifies and tracks individuals
who might have come into and contact with an infected person

Global positioning
systems; mobile phone applications; real-time monitoring
of mobile devices; wearable technology

Germany; Singapore; South Korea

Identifies exposed individuals for
testing and quarantine; tracks viral spread

Could breach privacy; might detect
individuals who have not been exposed but have had contact;
could fail to detect individuals who are exposed if the
application is deactivated, the mobile device is absent, or
Wi-Fi or cell connectivity is inadequate

Source: “Applications of digital technology in
COVID-19 pandemic planning and response” 6

In May 2020, Google and Apple cooperated to create the Exposure
Notifications System (ENS), a contact tracing utility. As described by
Google, “The ENS allows public health authorities to develop apps that
augment manual contact tracing efforts while preserving the privacy of
their citizens. As of [July 31, 2020], public health authorities have
used ENS to launch in 16 countries and regions across Africa, Asia,
Europe, North America and South America, with more apps currently
under development. In the US, 20 states and territories – representing
approximately 45 percent of the US population – are exploring apps
based on ENS.”7

Note : While generally praising ENS,
analyst Franklin Foer reports that “More than 300 European scientists
and privacy scholars signed an open letter stating, ‘We are concerned
that some [solutions] to the [COVID-19] crisis may, via mission creep
… allow unprecedented surveillance of society at large.'”8

Robot Revolution

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 is fueling already-existing efforts to
replace human workers with their robotic counterparts. In the
pre-pandemic period, the transition was justified on economic terms
since machines generally function faster, safer, more reliably, and
less expensively than human operators. While these incentives still
apply, COVID-19 has supplied a more potent rationale: keeping
physicians, nurses, and other medical practitioners safe by enlisting
robots to perform routine procedures on infected (or potentially
infected) patients. Going forward, expect the medical and robotics
communities to cooperate in the design and development of new robotic

To illustrate, consider the current COVID-19 testing process that
involves collecting biological samples with cotton swabs. Lifeline
Robotics, in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark,
has produced the world’s first automated swab robot, pictured in
Figure 1. As detailed by the manufacturer, “The process of the
automatic swab sample begins when the patient scans her ID-card. The
robot then prepares a sample kit, consisting of a container with a
printed ID-label. When the patient opens her mouth, the robot picks up
the swab and identifies the right points in the patient’s throat. This
happens through artificial intelligence based computer vision. The
robot gently and securely conducts the swab, places it back into the
container, and puts on the lid. The process takes around 7 minutes in
total, and the swab itself 25 seconds. The sample is then ready for

Figure 1. Lifeline Robotics Automated Swab Robot

Figure 1. Lifeline Robotics Automated Swab Robot

Source: Lifeline Robotics

As reported by analyst James Vincent, “Robots are helping ease
strains caused by staff shortages and rigorous cleaning regimes” and
may be deployed in a variety of high-risk facilities, including
hospitals, out-patient centers, and nursing homes.9

As anticipated, the robotics market should surge in the wake of
COVID-19. According to MarketsandMarkets, “Dearth of skilled labor and
solicitation of proposals by governments and public-private companies
to mitigate the adverse impact of COVID-19 are key driving factors for
the market.”

The demand for articulated robots, which are instrumental in heavy
equipment assembly, especially automobiles, will grow, as will the
need for more specialized robot types such as SCARA and parallel

Figure 2. Articulated Robots Labor on Vehicle Assembly Line

Figure 2. Articulated Robots Labor on Vehicle Assembly Line

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In addition to physical robots, COVID-19 should stimulate interest in
“robotic process automation” (RPA), in which software robots, or
“bots”, help automate the performance of common computer-oriented
business processes. The bots “essentially look at the screens that
workers today look at and fill in and update the same boxes and fields
within the user interface by pulling the relevant data from the
relevant location.”11

If added to their home office arsenal, RPA tools can help remote
workers reduce errors, improve productivity, and lower stress (in an
already anxiety-filled COVID-19 setting).

Pandemic Pods

Owing to COVID-19, a number of prominent sports leagues and
organizations, from the NBA and NFL to the International Olympic
Committee, have established “pandemic pods,” where players, coaches,
officials, and support personnel can be sequestered in a protective
“sports bubble.”

The idea is to affect an aggressive social distancing and contact
tracing program that will allow athletes to safely engage in sporting
events while avoiding exposure to COVID-19. It’s a high stakes
operation in which millions of dollars in revenue can be jeopardized
by a few positive virus tests. That’s why the NBA and NFL provided
players and other vulnerable parties with Kinexon SafeZone tags which
can be used to monitor an individual’s movements and person-to-person

Figure 3. Kinexon SafeZone tag

Figure 3. Kinexon SafeZone tag

Source: Kinexon

Kinexon, a German-based company, has a long history of working with
sports teams on performance tracking but, as Jessica Golden of CNBC
reports, “decided to pivot once coronavirus struck. The half-ounce
[SafeZone] tag contains a proximity sensor and can be worn as a
wristband, as an ID badge, or embedded into equipment for games and
practice. It’s about the size of an Apple AirPods case. When a player
or staff member comes within six feet of another person, a red light
will appear as a warning signal. After five seconds, an audible alarm
will be emitted from the device, alerting the wearers that they need
to distance themselves.”12

COVID-19-Inspired IT Projects

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Virus-Safe Communities

Owing to the relative success of the NBA and NFL pod models, some
public and private groups may attempt to imitate the pod isolation
strategies by fashioning virus-safe communities, a variation on the
concept of the “gated” community in which security and safety
conscious individuals would elect to live in a controlled neighborhood
space in order to achieve protection against biological
hazards.- protection largely made possible by information

Curated Information Sources

Prominent social media outlets, particularly Facebook, have channeled
misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, convincing citizens,
in contravention of sound medical and epidemiological advice, to:

  • Refuse free, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccinations; and
  • Ignore the advice of public health officials relative to masking.

In the wake of the damage done through media “democratization”, there
is an urgent need for respected news outlets to create new online
platforms dedicated to the factual presentation of curated

Remote Worker “Toolkit”

Considered a necessary evil by some enterprise executives, remote
working will remain a viable work and lifestyle choice for many, if
not most, employees. No longer a temporary arrangement to accommodate
pandemic restrictions, remote work (and remote workers) will feature
in every enterprise’s staffing structure. From a security perspective,
enterprise planners will likely commit to a standard complement of
tools and services intended to provide a robust and reliable remote
work atmosphere. To that end, analyst Tim Ferrill suggests “10
security tools all remote employees should have:”

  1. Cybersecurity training
  2. Digital wallets
  3. Credit/digital identity monitoring
  4. Password managers
  5. Two-factor tokens
  6. Anti-malware software
  7. VPN services
  8. Backup solutions
  9. Privacy screens
  10. Laptops, phones, network hardware13

Computer-Generated People

As the Fall television season approaches, movie and TV producers are
trying to figure out how to film new comedies and dramas while
observing social distancing protocols. One highly-controversial
possibility is to replace human actors with CGI facsimiles, using
computer generated imagery to supply both realistic scenery and
characters. There is, after all, precedent. In 2015, filmmakers
utilized CGI technology to revive Paul Walker’s character for Furious
. Walker had perished in a car crash in 2013.14
Although Hollywood executives will be reluctant to create a CGI Tom
Hanks or Julia Roberts (fearing the legal and public relations
complications), they may explore the technology, however tentatively,
if COVID-19 is still raging in 2021.

Digital Voting and Other Services

COVID-19 has rendered most in-door activities dangerous, including
voting. That’s why many public health and election officials recommend
voting by mail, especially for high-risk individuals, seniors and
people suffering from cardiac and pulmonary conditions. Unfortunately,
mail-in ballots, particularly in volume, take days and sometimes weeks
to process, with the result that election results could be delayed and
vote tallies considered suspect.

In theory, digital, or online, voting would:

  • Provide faster results
  • Eliminate the need for poll workers
  • Remove the requirement for physical voting machines (and voting
    machine maintenance)
  • Enable people to vote at their convenience
  • Encourage greater voter participation
  • Produce an audit trail (in the event of recount requests)
  • Enforce uniform voting standards

Despite the advantages, digital voting has never gained traction in
the US due to concerns over possible computer hacking. COVID-19,
however, may have changed this calculus, propelling, in the words of
analyst Sam Lessin, “a real demand for digital … voting and remote
government service delivery.” Lessin adds that “A pandemic might
similarly create a sense of urgency about regulation to open up drone
airspace and bot delivery as we look for ways to deliver services
remotely in both urban and rural environments.”15

Immersive Entertainment

While most business sectors, especially the restaurant industry, have
suffered due to COVID-19, the disease has been particularly disruptive
to live entertainment businesses such as sports, concerts, plays, and
musicals. So long as the pandemic persists and fans are denied entry
to their favorite venues to experience their favorite acts, fresh
entertainment will be confined to television and computer screens,
delivered by TV and cable networks or streaming services like Netflix
or Amazon.

Some sports producers are responding to “the new normal” by making
their live broadcasts as realistic as possible, using digital effects
to populate stadia with virtual fans and audio effects to emulate
characteristic fan cheers and boos.

The next logical progression might be to incorporate virtual reality
into the presentation, enabling homebound consumers to experience a
football game as if they were in their favorite team’s huddle, or a
music concert as if they were standing onstage with Taylor Swift. Such
immersive entertainment would be challenging to create, but COVID-19
may provide an adequate financial incentive.


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1 Lauren Hirsch. “Top CEOs See Business Impact from
Coronavirus Lingering Until at Least the End of 2021.” CNBC. June 29,

2 Ed Yong. “How the Pandemic Defeated America.” The
. September 2020.

3 “Impacts of Covid-19 on Information Technology (IT)
Industry.” GeeksforGeeks. June 4, 2021.

4 Esam Elgohary and Reham Oncy Abdelazyz. “The Impact of
COVID-19 on Information Technology Industry: A Comparison Study
Between the Top Digital Countries in Middle East and Egypt.” International
Journal of Computing and Digital Systems
. July 2021.

5 “Impacts of Covid-19 on Information Technology (IT)
Industry.” GeeksforGeeks. June 4, 2021.

6 Sera Whitelaw, Mamas A. Mamas, Eric Topol, and Harriette
G. C. Van Spall. “Applications of Digital Technology in COVID-19
Pandemic Planning and Response.” Published by
Elsevier Ltd. 2020.

7 Dave Burke. “An Update on Exposure Notifications.”
Google. July 31, 2020.

8 Franklin Foer. “What Big Tech Wants Out of the
Pandemic.” The Atlantic. July/August 2020.

9 James Vincent. “After the Pandemic, Doctors Want Their
New Robot Helpers to Stay.” The Verge. July 9, 2020.

10 “COVID-19 Impact on Industrial Robotics Market by Type
(Articulated, SCARA, Parallel, Cartesian Robots), Industry
(Automotive; Electrical and Electronics; Food & Beverages;
Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics), and Region – Global Forecast to 2025.”
MarketsandMarkets. April 2020.

11 “What Is Robotic Process Automation?”
AIIM: The Association for Intelligent Information
. 2019.

12 Jessica Golden. “Here’s the Device the NFL and NBA
Are Using for Coronavirus Contact Tracing and Social Distancing.”
CNBC. July 22, 2020.

13 Tim Ferrill. “10 Security Tools All Remote Employees
Should Have.” CSO. IDG Communications, Inc. July 29, 2021.

14 Laura M. Holson. “A C.G.I. James Dean? Some in
Hollywood See ‘an Awful Precedent.'” The New York Times.
November 7, 2019.

15 Sam Lessin. “How Coronavirus Epidemics Could Alter
the Future of Tech.” The Information. March 9, 2020.

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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity
analyst and business writer with more than 30 years’ IT experience. A
member of “Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed,
developed, and deployed business continuity plans for a number of
Fortune 500 firms. He is the author of several books, including How
to Succeed in Business BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s
Advisory Panel, and a senior editor for Faulkner’s Security
Management Practices
. Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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