The alliance is a cross-disciplinary ad-hoc coalition that unites innovation experts and environmentalists from MOVE.BG, WWF Bulgaria, Greenpeace Bulgaria, and the Institute for Circular Economy.
The coronavirus crisis has speeded up the implementation of innovative technologies in various societal spheres. Tech-based solutions have helped us to contain COVID-19, to work remotely, to adapt our business and personal life to the new reality of living in lockdown. However, some technology-powered measures such as tracking location via mobile applications or face recognition have put one important question: where are the boundaries between the positive and negative aspects of tech implementation in our life.
Technologies and innovation themselves cannot be universal recipes for improving our personal life or societal development as their usage depends on people’s intention. Tracing apps haven’t reached the expected mass adoption for example: let’s think about why individuals and businesses have not embraced this new technology? Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data related to health issues could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to being excluded if the data would be exposed. This kind of situation shows how challenging it is to implement something new and never seen before in a complex and dynamic social texture.
Other hot topics for the business during the pandemic have been financial sustainability and the ecological footprint. Those challenges have boosted the green recovery agenda and have shown the significance of green-tech startups and green business projects, pursuing the goal of containing the economic crises and the environmental challenges.
2020 saw the beginning of a new phase of tech penetration: the urgent need to implement new technologies en masse and in a crisis mode while at the same time tackling challenges without a legal or regulatory framework in place. In this article, we have selected several new technologies that are expected to be at the center of public attention in the next 5-10 years. In the first part of the article, we will present five of them and show how pandemic impacted their implementation in our personal and professional life.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
The first technology that we are presenting to you has become very popular in recent years but the pandemic put it again in the spotlight - this time with a different perspective.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence allows the process of machine learning using large amounts of data. The technology can build algorithms that avoid human mistakes by individualizing patterns in the data. In this sense, the machines utilizing AI can be trained to complete specific tasks following a pattern of processed data with minimal human intervention. This AI characteristic is very useful in our “daily working process” with software and can improve it: for instance, in building well-developed interactivity.
But AI can be useful in different ways responding to various situations and needs. For example, AI can be implemented in analytics data collection in order to bring improvement of the performance of industries where the human cannot. It can be used to break social and economic barriers translating instantly different languages. It can also give us a wider vision, improve our understanding, and memorization or build a better decision-making process.
In all those cases, it is important to keep in mind that AI can not replace people as we design, choose, and implement the path of work and the final aim of tech implementation.
Artificial Intelligence in Pandemic
The coronavirus crisis has shown some important characteristics of AI. The technology has helped us to contain the virus as it can detect and predict the specific areas of the COVID-19 outbreak by using algorithms that allow it to have historical and real-time data simultaneously. AI-powered solutions have been very important in obtaining and analyzing the virus spreading trends and thus helped us to make more precise decisions.
AI is extremely useful in helping humans choose an effective procedure in moments of emergency when we do not have time for the traditional long and slow decision-making process.
Big Data Analytics is directly connected with AI as it is “the process of examining large data sets containing a variety of data types to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences, and other useful information.”
A Big Data database can work with AI to improve machine learning greatly since the technology learns from every single data and all the data together are capable of generating a new system of rules for business analytics. Companies implementing the usage of Big Data can take business advantages such as creating more effective marketing campaigns, improving customer service delivery, finding new opportunities, being more competitive. Big Data powers professional analytics to make complex critical decisions saving also time and money.
Big Data technology transforms the business area because it gives analysts and decision-makers competitive knowledge in real-time. This means that the companies could be proactive on the market adapting to all the little changes in the fastest way like shift-trending of the customers or any other movements.
Is Big Data Dangerous during a health crisis?
Big Data-based solutions have become very popular during the pandemic which turns the focus on several ethical concerns and legal challenges related to the generation and usage of large amounts of data.
As Big Data is capable of allowing access to a big amount of personal information in a faster way than traditional technologies, people are worried about challenges connected directly with privacy, personal autonomy, and transparency. It is also important to point out that as a new tech solution, Big Data is barely regulated or totally out of the legal scope which creates concerns for possible loopholes.
The business could face different risks, mostly connected with the exposure of sensible data.l - for example, in the healthcare industry, misuses could lead to social exclusion. To prevent such risks, we need consistent investments in technology, infrastructure, and staff training so that we can work safely with so large amounts of sensible data. We should also not forget or neglect privacy protection and should remember that technology can be good or bad and it depends on our decisions.
The new global wireless network after 1G,2G,3G, and 4G will be the 5G “that is designed to connect virtually everything and everyone together including objects, devices and machines”. 5G will be much more disruptive to our society because it will reach a “high level of speed, really low latency, more reliability, and massive network capacity”. The 5G technology will allow a wide connection between the most current cellphones using higher-frequency radio waves than previous cellular networks.
The goal of 5G technology is to create an environment completely interconnected in order to enable faster communication for individuals, business companies, and industries. 5G can maximize the speed of the connection including a big structure of utilities working on a massive number of embedded sensors -this is the structure of the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G has also the capacity to scale data so it could offer low-cost connectivity solutions.
With a system working on 5G technology, the global network can be much faster and reactive in critical situations. 5G can transform the industries with its low-latency rate while using remote control above critical infrastructures and also allowing a faster connection between them. According to experts, this service, called Mission Critical Communication, could be very useful for various industries and could increase public protection and disaster relief in case of accidents.
Why is 5G Crucial in Pandemic?
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, various economic sectors have slipped on wired or wireless communication networks to continue to be operative.COVID-19 crisis shows the importance of developing and deploying the fifth generation of mobile networks as they have been very effective in alleviating the negative consequences of the pandemic. Also, 5G plays a crucial role in the process of recovery, especially in the digital transition of the economy, society, and the healthcare sector as well.
Cybersecurity is “the state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this”, as explained in the Oxford English Dictionary. Cybersecurity unites various tech-based solutions with the mission to defend computers, mobile phones, servers, and data from online attacks. It has become a hot topic in recent years because of the rapidly grown threats such as malware, phishing attacks, scams, etc.
Top 15 Cyberthreats for 2020, ENISA Threat Landscape. Image: ©️ the European Union - source: ENISA. License: CC BY 4.0
Cyber attacks are very dangerous as they can directly affect our business and personal life by stealing confidential business data or sensitive personal information. Therefore, cybersecurity has the mission to defend devices and network systems from any malicious actions.
The Cybersecurity concept also includes the education of people and businesses to avoid any unpredictable threat that may come from suspicious email links, insecure sites, and many other ways on the internet. Moreover, an important part of Cybersecurity is the creation of restore mechanisms after attacks - for example, how to successfully recover a large amount of stolen data or a previous operational capacity that a company had before the attack.
Cybersecurity experts work on several significant challenges that still need more resilient protective solutions:
- Business attacks against economic players - for instance, stealing business plans, know-how, new market or product strategies;
- Political attacks against parties, foundations, or state institutions - those illegal activities target mostly stealing of sensitive data like state secrets or political strategies;
- Attacks on important national security infrastructure - in this case, criminals aim at large-scale damage on crucial systems like electricity, grid, or national data registers in order to provoke internet blackouts to cause chaos and insecurity.
Cybersecurity Priority during the COVID-19
The pandemic is accelerating the digital transition and the need of adopting digital-based solutions in a faster and extraordinary situation. Many businesses have migrated online or moved important parts of their activities in the digital space. Moreover, traditional eye-to-eye business communication including contract negotiations has been moved to "digital rooms" like Zoom or Webex.
As businesses turn to the online world, the threats follow them as well. During the Pandemic among the top priorities have become how to protect sensitive data, guarantee operational competitiveness and reputation, and offer customers reliable and faster services. Many businesses, organizations, and state institutions are experiencing challenges in ensuring the needed levels of Cybersecurity. The Post-COVID period and the European Union Recovery Mechanism "Next Generation EU" are opportunities to speed up the preparation for online threats and risks, especially in the process of transferring data from the physical world to the digital one. Moreover, we should use our experience during the lockdowns to develop the next generation of remote-working environments.
Cybersecurity and cyber threats are perfect examples of how one technology can be used for the public good or illegal activities depending on the people's interests. As digital tech implementation grows, we should keep in mind to be more critical and to have enough information so that we are prepared to make the right decisions and to protect ourselves from cybercriminals.
Blockchain is the technology that underpins the cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH). Its decentralized system of blocks and nodes allows transactions including transferring of digital coins to proceed in a faster way without the need for third-party support as a mediator for example ,in the traditional system of transferring money we need the obligatory role of banks and other financial institutions. However, the widespread Blockchain implementation faces several challenges such as scalability that is the ability to manage large volumes of transactions at high speeds.
There are two types of Blockchains: open public ledgers like the codes of BTC or ETH where every action is visible and private systems which are locked to the open public.
“Blockchain is one of the major breakthroughs of the past decade. A technology that allows large groups of people and organizations to reach agreement on and permanently record information without a central authority, it has been recognized as an important tool for creating trust online, potentially providing the infrastructure for a fair, inclusive, secure and democratic digital economy. This has significant implications for how we think about many of our economic, social and political institutions,” according to a report by the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum.
“As a key component of the next generation World Wide Web, often referred to as Web 3.0,3 blockchain is also expected to become an important industry in its own right. By providing trust in information without using third parties, blockchain can greatly facilitate peer-to peer transaction platforms, potentially catalysing new, decentralised and highly automated digital markets that will create new businesses and be an ongoing source of innovation and economic growth.”
Blockchain during the pandemic
In recent years, crypto technology has widened its implementation in various sectors beyond digital coins. The pandemic is speeding up this process but there are two points here: the cryptocurrency itself and the blockchain as a separate technology. The crypto market has experienced a major boom this year as the BTC price hit USD 50,000 for one coin for the first time as more and more investors turned their attention to digital money.
On the other hand, many sectors have turned much higher attention to blockchain as means to reduce costs because the technology allows companies to make contracts without paper and third-party related costs. Several major financial institutions have also implemented blockchain-based solutions, mostly experiments on how the crypto technology could manage transactions and contract-related issues. Moreover, blockchain has been used as the underpinning technology of some pandemic-born healthcare innovation due to its capability to track every action which is very important in tackling the crisis.
“The SARS-CoV2 pandemic has impacted risk management globally. Blockchain has been increasingly applied to healthcare management, as a strategic tool to strengthen operative protocols and to create the proper basis for an efficient and effective evidence-based decisional process,” writes an analysis in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
However, the pandemic has also shown the unresolved challenges of blockchain and guaranteeing security: the dilemma between maintaining a decentralized system and ensuring the reliability of the system.
The article is part of MOVE.BG initiative EDIT - Economic Development via Innovation and Technology.