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Photo by — @tandemxvisuals

Coronavirus, AI and Digital Infrastructure

Artificial Intelligence and Shifting Capacities in a Crisis

Societies around the world increasingly depend on well-functioning and consistent digital infrastructure. What is the relationship between digital infrastructure, AI and the Coronavirus? Planning capacity in terms of the use of digital services is incredibly important — services can be disrupted when you last need it. Digital services are not in all cases set up to handle traffic in a crisis. Services that one could have predicted necessary beforehand do not necessarily have emergency measures in place.

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Compilation of websites and services crashing in Norway made by author

How is the Digital Infrastructure Coping?

The open-ended question is stated above, yet it is not easy to know the answer. The most visible aspect is the front-end of websites that can go ‘down’ due to traffic or for other reasons. However there are likely services that have such an increased amount of people approaching it or using it that it could be creaking at the seams or going from turning a profit to running into a great deal of expenses.

Mapping the City for Citizens

On the citizen side is there a digital infrastructure to help people in a city navigate away from the areas that are most affected? Before going into this there are of course heavy privacy and social issues relating to this — seeing as it could be stigmatised to live in certain areas or this can be attempted managed by various owners in one area. It is however interesting to consider this aspect. Especially since this is often a private initiative, which can be a concern due to the danger of health data going unwanted places — instead of a state or multilateral organisation taking a clear initiative to do so.

Does the Hype Outstrip Reality?

On the other hand an article by Will Douglas Heaven in MIT Technology Review called AI could help with the next pandemic — but not with this one takes a different perspective arguing that the: “The hype outstrips reality […] too much confidence in AI’s capabilities could lead to ill-informed decisions that funnel public money to unproven AI companies at the expense of proven interventions such as drug programs.” Pragmatically the article goes against its title showing in fact a range of different applications AI can be used for arguing also that there are interesting developments in terms of the developments in the field of AI within image recognition in CT scans.

Written by

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau

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