Jakub Jirsák - stock.adobe.com

Connect and protect: How the tech sector is responding to the coronavirus crisis

Tech sector trade body TechUK is coordinating the industry's activity to help the UK government tackle the Covid-19 outbreak

Many would not have been able to imagine a month or two ago that the Covid-19 coronavirus would lead to the drastic measures that the government has been forced to make and the unprecedented impact on all our lives.

Events have escalated quickly, and the tech sector has responded. Over 300 technology companies sent NHSX offers of help when it requested them. As the crisis continues, the sector is crucial to supporting vital public services, keeping the country connected while also ensuring that we are able to protect the most vulnerable.

It’s all about connecting and protecting in these first weeks. Our number one priority has been to establish clear lines of communication between government and our industry. Moving quickly on this has been vital to providing expertise and tools to government and the NHS to help in the fight against the disease.

It has also been essential in ensuring that unnecessary energy has not been expended in seeking and providing information through multiple sources.

Engagement with government has meant the tech sector has been able to focus its efforts on supporting resilience and continuity, tackling misinformation and providing material support to crucial public services, including the NHS.  

TechUK’s regular meetings with the departments for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), culture, media and sport (DCMS), and other bodies such as NHSX, are ensuring that our members’ issues and offers to help get directly to the decision makers in government.

It is important to provide this two-way connection between government and to the whole industry, not just members, so please contact us if you need help or can offer it.

Connecting tech

Tech has been at the heart of supporting social-distancing measures, particularly in how it has enabled home working and the continuity of education through cloud-based business apps and video conferencing software.

Telecommunications providers have also stepped up to provide support to those people needing to connect. And our networks have coped well with the increased demand. But it has shown the variable picture at the last mile and the patchy state of readiness of small businesses to operate online.

Tech businesses are also taking steps to ensure that the public are getting the right information and we have seen some important interventions from platform providers pledging to remove inaccurate information from their sites.

As a result of our engagement with government, data infrastructure sector employees were included on the key workers list and DCMS has agreed to set up a joint tech resilience team with us at TechUK.

Keeping people connected is essential for supporting business continuity and allowing us all to communicate with loved ones, friends and other support networks during this very difficult time, while we are socially distancing to reduce the spread of this disease.  

Protecting with tech

Technology has and will continue to play an important role in the fight against Covid-19 in testing, treating, curing and eventually finding a vaccine.

We have seen some important applications of technology in areas such as remote triage, video consultation, patient signposting, patient messaging and population-wide communications.

Also big data, artificial intelligence and internet of things technologies are helping the NHS understand the topology and development of the pandemic. Given the challenge of massive demand and scarce resources, being able to predict likely areas of shortage of equipment or staff is hugely valuable and will save lives.

We are working closely with NHSX and frontline health service providers to help them to access the technology they need. This ranges from technology to take the pressure off 111 services and video conferencing technology to allow remote appointments, to process changes to help NHS and social care staff get the laptops, tablets and other hardware that they need.

The industry must be commended for its response to the government’s call for it to assist in the manufacture of ventilators. It is action like this that will save lives but the industry can and will do much more, and the government is calling for assistance.

Sticking together

The next 12 weeks will be crucial to stemming the spread of this virus and protecting our essential public services. Measures brought in by the government will require constant review.

Government is asking TechUK to gather information from the industry on how it can continue to empower it to tackle this challenge.

If you think your business can help, please email: covid19.taskforce@techUK.org.

TechUK has also setup its Covid-19 Information Hub to keep our industry updated on important announcements impacting their businesses, as well as to provide information to government on how we can support it.

Essential guide to IT and coronavirus

Computer Weekly has compiled an essential guide to technology readiness for the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, featuring best practice advice on:

  • Remote working
  • IT security
  • IT infrastructure
  • NHS and technology
  • Business and government response

Click here to read our coverage of IT and the coronavirus outbreak.

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