Wed | May 27, 2020

Ten lessons from COVID-19

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:10 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

COVID-19 is sweeping through the world like ‘Nicodemus in the night’ and will change our lives forever. We have now been forced to review how we educate our population, conduct business, and provide security, among other things. However, are we documenting our current experiences and ‘teething pains’ as we navigate through troubled waters to avoid future generations having to face a repeat of this crisis?

Here are 10 lessons and strategies we can learn and deploy for the future:

1 Internet penetration in rural Jamaica is unacceptably low. Too many people have limited or no access to Internet services, feeding the gap between the ‘informed rich’ and the ‘information poor’. Regulators and policymakers must make changing this a priority.

2The telecommunications infrastructure has been falling apart for years due to a lack of reinvestment in the sector. There has been inadequate capital expenditure in the upgrading and expansion of the IT ecosystem. A mandatory capital-expenditure programme needs to be predetermined and agreed with our telecom entities. These providers are to be held to these upgrades, with heavy fines and penalties attached if they fail to adhere to continuous improvement.

3 Transform the way lessons are delivered at our schools. The use of gadgets by students in the delivery of lessons and interactions with teachers should be considered. Online classes should be integrated into the teaching fabric of the nation. We should also consider replacing paper-based examinations with computer-based examinations.

4 Develop a modern food-security policy that will include storage and distribution of agricultural produce. Reserve benchmarks must be scientifically pre-determined and an oversight framework developed to monitor and measure outcomes.

5 Sanitisation and social distancing should become the general rule and norm rather than the exception.

6 Flexi work hours must now be ingrained as a viable option to employers and employees. Tax credits should be offered to induce employers to consider this option.

7 The entire healthcare policy of the country must include pandemic planning and response and appropriately funded by the Budget in perpetuity.

8 Big data and information technology investments are to cover the landscape so that both the Government and the private sector can extract the intrinsic value from such resources.

9 Investment in our own medical research into indigenous plants and herbs as ongoing possibilities should be budgeted for and deployed through our educational institutions.

10 Massive development of micro, small, and medium enterprises so that future economic fallout from similar threats will be mitigated by the mere combined size of these entities.

Every situation we find ourselves in presents an opportunity for growth and development. We have a clear opportunity to emerge stronger and more advanced as a country, and it should be taken on, like the fight against COVID-19, aggressively.

PAUL LYN, JP