Technology as an Enabler for Addressing the COVID-19 Challenges in the East African Community

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Zgovu, Evious Kingswell
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African Economic Research Consortium
COVID-19 is a highly contagious and deadly disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is transmitted through respiratory droplets containing the virus. Governments around the world, including the East African Community (EAC), put in place public health emergency measures such as restriction or ban of non-essential face-to-face interactions in confined spaces, curfews, and lockdowns to contain and control the spread of the virus. These measures severely disrupted normal human life activities leaving countries and communities with the huge challenges of going about normal life, including in production and consumption of goods and services in public health, education, international and domestic trade, social interactions and networking, among others. Where human physical presence and face-to-face interactions can be minimized or avoided through, for example, the application of technology, economic and social activities has been restored and a semblance of normality regained. Thus, the pandemic has brought technology into greater prominence as a vehicle for attaining near-normality in social, economic and other life activities, and through that, support resilience and recovery from the challenges caused by the pandemic. The objective of this study was to examine the role played by technology in addressing the challenges to normal life caused by the pandemic in the EAC, and contribute to policy on increasing the role of technology application for sustainable economic growth and development in the region. The specific objectives include examining, in the context of the EAC, the state of play of factors that determine technology inclusion and adoption, examples of technology solutions availed to address the challenges caused by the pandemic, and policy implications for promoting technology adoption and application to support recovery and greater economic prosperity in the EAC. The primary focus of the work here is on the innovative ways in which technology has been used in the EAC to try to get on with life as normal during the pandemic, rather than try to delve into the broad spectrum of roles and application of technology, and/or all the myriad of issues surrounding technology development in the region. Due to international travel restrictions, the study was conducted offsite, primarily during November2020-December 2020 which coincided with the peak of a raging second wave of the pandemic in some of the EAC Partner States. Updates to data and information collected beyond December 2020 have been made where feasible but the main thrust of the information and data remain the primary period mentioned.