Adapting for the Digital Now
As life in lockdown level 3 continues long past the anticipated pandemic period, our ways of working have significantly changed.
The pandemic has fast-tracked digital transformation in all organisations as they have had to rapidly adapt and become more resilient to future disruptions.
It is likely that in the post Covid-19 world we will never return to the way things were before.
To prepare for this, people across all sectors need to acquire technology, digital, coding and online skills.
It also requires the upskilling of staff.
Our faculties and academics at NMU have combined forces with hospitals, businesses and communities in the Nelson Mandela metro to help fight Covid-19.
Among the biggest battles right now is to ensure we have enough field hospitals, and to increase early detection, and tracking and tracing of people with comorbidities, as well as the overall management of the disease.
The Centre for Community Technologies (CCT) is collaborating towards achieving this in a number of ways.
We are doing the ICT support for Nelson Mandela Bay’s 3,500-bed Rev Dr EM Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital, which is a paperless environment running cloud-based solutions.
It is the only completely paperless hospital in the public sector in the Bay. The solution was developed by the IT division of the department of health.
The CCT also developed the contact tracing solution used in the Bay and which is currently being prepared for the rest of the Eastern Cape.
A complementary solution developed by the CCT two years ago is the Ncediso™ integrated mobile application that was developed to upskill community health-care workers in areas where basic health care, first aid skills and clinics are scarce.
The application facilitates the early detection and management of chronic disease, and provides information on infectious and non-infectious diseases, first aid as well as various other conditions.
The CCT also assisted with the development of a contact monitoring app for people who have been in contact with a Covid-19 positive person.
The solution facilitates the capturing of comorbidities such as HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension.
The app was developed within 14 days in collaboration with a team in India.
The Port Elizabeth and India based teams engaged through two WhatsApp calls a day to discuss the app, and the rest of the development phase was also conducted via WhatsApp.
The user interface for the solution was shared on the WhatsApp group for instant feedback, so that we could see what it looked like on a mobile device.
Online leadership and collaboration of research, innovation and business teams, or chairing and moderation of webinars and meetings, is one of the essential new skills.
I recently participated in a World Health Organisation (WHO) webinar of just over 700 people worldwide that was admirably organised.
They used a separate mobile app for participants to post their questions so that the presenters could see them and respond to them.
Across all professions, creativity has merged with innovation and this will be the way of life going forward.
The pandemic has revealed some of the potential technology can offer.
But a significant question is how do we engage and reskill the workforce for the use of technology?
In the university space, we have to revisit the curriculum and ensure that there is a high degree of transdisciplinary learning, teaching, research, and engagement with society going forward.
Every academic programme across all faculties must have specific elements of being flexible, digital and data savvy.
Students must learn digital skills from primary school.
eSchools are the future, especially in a world full of uncertainty. However, education can be accessible to everyone only if we enable access to education and learning through technology and make it affordable.
A digital tool in the form of an easy to download mobile app to assess and evaluate the ICT or eReadiness of all public schools in SA has been developed in partnership with the CCT.
The necessity for eReadiness and ICT capacity in schools has been emphasised for years but
this has not been achieved. The urgency for eReadiness has been further highlighted by the coronavirus.
Regrettably we are not there yet in the majority of our approximately 26,000 schools, hence this digital tool is a critical step forward to a new era.
The pilot will be tested as soon as possible in 1,000 schools in all nine provinces, with a view to rolling it out to every government school.
SA has to rapidly and immediately change its education focus and delivery model to be ICT responsive and eReady.
Almost all sectors in our country have been severely impacted by Covid-19 and are forced to adapt to survive.
For some, these changes are fairly easy while for others they are complicated and require lots of money and effort.
The CCT is actively working with government departments, organisations and industry to develop innovative technology solutions to support some of the critical changes necessary to traverse the digital world.
Professor Darelle van Greunen, director of the Centre for Community Technologies at Nelson Mandela University
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