• Written by Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

The health implications of the Wuhan coronavirus (now called “Covid-19”) outbreak are, obviously, deeply concerning.

At the time of writing, it had infected more than 50,000 people and killed more than 1,300. Cities and cruise ships are in lockdown. Major trade shows like the Mobile World Congress have been cancelled. Even the Dalai Lama has indefinitely postponed all public appearances.

It has been widely noted that the crisis is having a large economic effect, not only on China but on countries such as Australia.

Those ripple effects stem from the fact that, compared to the time of the SARS outbreak in 2003, China is both a much larger economy and vastly more interconnected with the rest of the world.

Take Australia’s connections. China is Australia’s largest source for international students, with nearly 190,000 Chinese studying in our tertiary institutions. China is also Australia’s largest source of tourists and biggest trading partner.


Read more: We depend so much more on Chinese travellers now. That makes the impact of this coronavirus novel


Even if other countries don’t have the same level of exposure, the whole world is now radically interconnected. Global supply chains for products from cars to mobile phones run across multiple countries.

The components of an iPhone, for example, come from manufacturers in the United States as well as China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

The tectonic technological forces that have driven globalisation also mean an unprecedented “black swan” health crisis can quickly turn into a full-blown economic crisis.


Read more: How does the Wuhan coronavirus cause severe illness?


Digital technology to the rescue

Against this backdrop, it is striking that the same technological forces behind global interconnectedness are key to coping with the coronavirus crisis.

An example comes from the Alibaba Group – arguably China’s leading e-commerce company. It is using everything from food delivery to cloud computing to help combat the crisis.

One of the first things that happens in a crisis is demand surges for goods and services in limited supply – face masks, for example.

Alibaba has encouraged sellers on its platforms to increase the supply of masks and other in-demand equipment. It has also used its influence to discourage the kind of price-gouging often seen during natural disasters.

On top of that, consider what life is like for about 11 million people in Wuhan, a city where normal life has ground to a halt as people avoid going out. How do they get groceries and other essentials?

A week before Chinese New Year, demand for takeaway food and other services increased 129%, according to Alibaba.

Deploying platforms

It’s worth pausing to reflect on how much worse the quarantine imposed on Wuhan and surrounding areas would be without the technology that makes transport and logistics today so sophisticated.

Keeping medical staff well cared for in Wuhan has also been crucial.

Leveraging Alibaba’s 18 Freshippo techno supermarkets in Wuhan, the group has set up a dedicated food-delivery team to provide free food and safe drinking water to local hospitals, rescue teams, reporters and volunteers. The group’s Amap Taxi operation has organised a volunteer force to provide free transport for all medical staff 24 hours a day. Alibaba’s travel platform “Fliggy” is be used to offer free accommodation to medical staff – a total of more than 10,000 rooms.

Finally, Alibaba’s cloud-computing business Ali Cloud – similar to Amazon Web Services – has helped health authorities track the outbreak and its spread. It has provided unlimited computing capacity to global medical researchers to accelerate the finding of a cure for the virus. It is also collaborating with Zhejiang Province’s Disease Control Centre to develop an artificial intelligence gene-analysis system that could could slash diagnosis time from two hours to half an hour.

At a time when globalisation is being sharply questioned, it is important to remember the upsides as well as the downsides of an interconnected world.


Read more: Fear spreads easily. That's what gives the Wuhan coronavirus economic impact


Yes, radical global interconnectedness makes the world more vulnerable to financial and public health crises. Yet those same forces have also lifted roughly 2 billion people out of extreme poverty in the past 30 years.

Those same technological forces drive the e-commerce platforms, cloud computing and artificial intelligence that help mitigate the effects of these crises.

Richard Holden was an invited speaker at the Luohan Academy Annual Digital Economy Conference in 2019.

Authors: Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Read more https://theconversation.com/vital-signs-a-connected-world-makes-this-coronavirus-scarier-but-also-helps-us-deal-with-it-131662

Winter Pool Upkeep - Is It Necessary?

In winter, harsher elements such as rain and wind can have a real impact on your backyard pool. Many pool owners will choose to switch off their pool equipment and cover up during the winter mon...

News Company - avatar News Company

Why children and teens with symptoms should get a COVID-19 test, even if you think it's 'just a cough'

A Victorian teenager holidaying on the NSW South Coast has been diagnosed with COVID-19, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said on Wednesday. The revelation follows reports senior students at Al-Ta...

Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist, University of Western Australia - avatar Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist, University of Western Australia

Is watching porn bad for your health? We asked 5 experts

www.shutterstock.comLet’s be honest: during coronavirus lockdown it was hard to resist the allure of internet intimacy. Rates of watching porn skyrocketed in Australia during isolation.But have ...

Liam Petterson, Assistant Editor, Health + Medicine, The Conversation Australia - avatar Liam Petterson, Assistant Editor, Health + Medicine, The Conversation Australia

9 Reasons Sydney Is the Best City in Australia

Sydney is home to nearly 6 million people, making it by far the most populated city in Australia. According to census data, Sydney is growing fast, with average growth rates ranging between 3.96...

Samantha Ball - avatar Samantha Ball

How To Take Your Pressure Cooking To The Next Level

If you are like most busy homeowners, wives, husbands, or parents, you've no doubt tried a pressure cooker by now. These are without a doubt one of the most unique, handy, and convenient devices...

News Company - avatar News Company

Melbourne's lockdown came too late. It's time to consider moving infected people outside the home

From midnight Wednesday, all of Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will return to Stage 3 lockdown for six weeks. There are only four reasons for residents to leave their homes: shopping for es...

Mary-Louise McLaws, Professor of Epidemiology Healthcare Infection and Infectious Diseases Control, UNSW - avatar Mary-Louise McLaws, Professor of Epidemiology Healthcare Infection and Infectious Diseases Control, UNSW

Victorians, and anyone else at risk, should now be wearing face masks. Here's how to make one

After early success in suppressing COVID-19, we are facing a resurgence in Victoria, which is threatening disease control for the whole country. Outbreaks in northwestern Melbourne, including in publi...

C Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Head, Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW - avatar C Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Head, Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW

Is the airborne route a major source of coronavirus transmission?

ShutterstockAs the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, one question that keeps coming up is whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air. In fact, 239 scientists in 32 cou...

Hassan Vally, Associate Professor, La Trobe University - avatar Hassan Vally, Associate Professor, La Trobe University

this is just how vigilant we have to be until a COVID-19 vaccine is found

Metropolitan Melbourne and the shire of Mitchell will returned to Stage 3 stay-at-home restrictions as of midnight Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced, after 191 new cases were recorded in...

Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University - avatar Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion