Chinese motorists with face masks in Jiujiang. Source: AFP.

Chinese motorists with face masks in Jiujiang. Source: AFP.

China’s tech giants can help the world recover with AI

The coronavirus pandemic is causing devastation to economies around the world, and an end to crisis seems nowhere in sight.

Economies in the APAC region are set to hemorrhage with an expected US $211 billion loss across the region, and many countries are at the brink of a recession.

But as countries struggle to contain the impact, advanced technology is proving invaluable in both handling and mitigating its immediate effects, and helping us find out more about the threats the world is facing.

A world leader in technology – and at the center of the outbreak – China is fronting technology’s potential in combating the impact of coronavirus, and much of its current progress is with applications of tech at the bleeding edge: artificial intelligence (AI).

AI programs are already used in the healthcare sector to trawl through banks of patient data in efforts to identify diseases through pattern matching. Logically, several groups have swiftly applied this breakthrough to help identify coronavirus-infected individuals.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has now developed an AI algorithm that can analyze CT scans, which it claims can identify pneumonia with an accuracy of 96 percent, within 20 seconds.

Meanwhile, the National Supercomputer Centre in Tianjin announced that the AI-system on its Tianhe-1 computer too can go through hundreds of CT scans, and can give a diagnosis within 10 seconds, with an accuracy of more than 80 percent.

As well as diagnosis, tech giants are also helping the healthcare industry in discovering cures.

Alibaba, Tencent, DiDi, and Huawei, for example, have offered up their supercomputers and cloud computing resources to researchers to help them fast track the development of treatments and vaccines.

Much is still unknown about this virus’s structure and characteristics. Genome sequencing  can help to map the virus’s make-up, and supercomputers have the capacity to run heavy calculations and model solutions faster than standard computer processors.

A major challenge that came along with the pandemic was the capacity overload of healthcare facilities.

AI-powered chatbots and online consultation platforms can help alleviate resources and minimize contact. They can help ‘sift’ patients through, and only connect high-risk individuals with medical professionals.

Search engine Baidu has offered up free consultation platforms that answer basic questions and escalate high-risk cases to relevant medical professionals.

To date, the company claimed that they have handled over 15 million inquiries and have an army of 100,000 doctors ready to answer questions remotely. Tencent, the company that operates WeChat, is also providing a similar platform.

Without a doubt, the pandemic is devastating. But it is also bringing out the best of technology in China, showing that investments in technology do indeed pay off.

It’s in these tech giants’ interest to contribute to helping the world recover and ensure the markets they sell in return to a level as soon as possible.

Opportunities can often be found in the midst of chaos, and in this case, AI can be leveraged for a profit, and also used for the betterment of the society.