Time to reach Millions of Cases decreased like Time to reach Millions of Users
eight months before the pandemic I have been under treatment for tuberculosis with 6 months of daily doses of antibiotics. During these times I thought about and read books about transmissible diseases, epidemiology, and how technology could help track and fight them. my early research about epidemiology taught me how our growing connectedness had increased the speed of transmission of diseases and how this was a big problem for our society. I witnessed some solutions like the importance for a developing country like mine, Senegal, to seriously track locations of cases of tuberculosis and to have a global database of tuberculosis cases that could help track how this bacteria spread among the Senegalese population after that a social program that makes free of charge the treatment of this disease has been deployed. That’s only a month after my medical test proof of healing from tuberculosis that I heard the news of this dangerous virus called corona starting to kill and spread from china.
When the virus started to spread in china I thought of how this kind of situation could be catastrophic for African countries like mine because I had seen during my tuberculosis period how developing countries were under-armed in front of such cases of spreading strains. I got the first proof of the easiness and growing speed of the spread of diseases like how the spreading of information gets eased due to a world that is more and more physically and digitally wired because it took some days for the coronavirus to enter Europe and start to kill people here what reminded me that for internet startups like this recent one that is chatGPT, the time to reach millions of users has decreased but for pandemic situations like the coronavirus also the time to reach millions of cases has decreased as well. As you can see from the two charts below, our increasingly wired world has brought us opportunities like fast-growing internet companies but also raised some issues like the faster spreading of viruses and bacteria.
these two charts show that we entered an era in which things are amplified and can quickly have a very big impact on our everyday life and that’s what happened with the coronavirus because on march 2, 2020 my country, Senegal, recorded its first case after that the coronavirus started in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in November 2019. This fact clearly shows how fast things spread in our wired world. It’s hard to tell how hard it was in Africa where most of the population lives on a daily basis for things like food contrary to developed countries where people plan and buy food on a weekly or monthly basis. yes, the lockdown was very hard in Africa where there is still room for improvement in the global supply chain that gets disrupted by the pandemic making it hard for people to have the products they need at the right price and quantities. The positive signal for Africa was that the virus was not spreading as fast as it was spreading in developing countries but in my opinion is that this positive signal comes from the impact of a more wired world we have talked about above because if the virus was not so spreading in Africa that’s because Africa is among the less interconnected regions with fewer airlines, fewer trains, fewer means of transportation and less volume of travelers between its regional parts.
During the lockdown, I got to ideate a bit more about how our world could be designed to better address problems like this pandemic. This period of ideation about preventing epidemy that started months before the advent of the coronavirus highlighted to me that airports and international trains stations aren't designed with this goal of preventing epidemics in mind because many of them aren’t built with a clear separation between the transit flow and the domestic flow of travelers with controls of the transfer of passengers between these two distinct flows.
at the same time that the speed of spreading of things due to our ever-connected world gives us interesting opportunities in the forms of digital solutions and faster access to information and exposes us to challenging problems like this pandemic, we have come to see also how fast we could innovate because it took the world very little time to discover and produce an efficient vaccine for COVID-19. This fast discovery of a vaccine against COVID-19 is another fact that shows that there are not only drawbacks that come from the increased pace of our economy and life due to technology and this could make us confident about our abilities to face future threats like this past pandemic and this should be more true if we learned from this experience of COVID-19.
For my part, the pandemic helped me learn a lot and came as proof of the importance of these many tech-enabled ideas and solutions that I think are important for developed and developing countries to adopt. Solutions like online community-based learning driven by projects to be done instead of knowledge to be memorized, the importance of digitalization of administrative processes, and more importantly the collection and gathering of data about organizations and people like this need for a national public authority to get fast digests of flows of travelers from transportation companies like airlines because this would help public authorities to plan accordingly faster.
From the conclusion of this story of how I lived through the pandemic, you could see that connectedness particularly transportation velocity was a key vector of the spread of the coronavirus and I hope that you also see how important it is for us to think more about how we could design and build a better transportation system that could prevent or attenuate such kind of hard living moment like this pandemic.
PS: this story is written and published as a contribution to this invitation to share our pandemic stories then if you are interested you can do the same here is Jon Gluck ‘s article that explains the goal of this invitation to share your pandemic stories.