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Fighting COVID-19 Through Technologies: What We Can Learn for the New Normal

Digital Alibaba Cloud Day APAC 2020 Webinar in session

What can we learn from this “new normal” situation during this COVID-19 pandemic that forces some of us to stay at home until everything recedes? First of all, you need internet to get things done, to keep yourself entertained and stay productive. And second, we should anticipate permanent behaviour change, something that I learn from a webinar in Digital Alibaba Cloud Day APAC 2020 few days ago.

One of a theme in that webinar really got me curious: how technology can help combatting COVID-19 pandemic. One of the speakers, Alex Huang as a Lead Architect of Internet and FinTech in Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International, mentioned about the challenges faced by schools during the pandemic.

Alex Huang, Lead Architect of Internet and FinTech in Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International

During that virus outbreak, over 200 millions of students and 16 millions of teachers in mainland China turned to online education. But that means we need resilient infrastructure to support all these online class sections.

There are three main requirements to host online education, Mr Huang said, which is providing stable and reliable infrastructure to make sure high quality network access, comprehensive security to prevent data leakage or cyber attack, and safe yet reliable mass internet storage.

At the same time, those requirements also comes with challenges. Building infrastructure means high investments, so does high technical barriers that come with comprehensive security, and lastly high operation costs to maintain the videos.

I must say that what happened in Indonesia differs so drastically, at least from my personal experience watching my kids studying at home. They used video apps daily to have a meeting with friends and teachers, homework were distributed through messaging apps, some of the instruction tutorials were uploaded on Youtube.

For the daily tasks, it has to be submitted using messaging app, sometimes using Google Classroom. But if you have trouble with the app, you can still send it with messaging app to the teacher personal number.

My kids during one of the online session

My conclusion: our kids school “digital education” is treated like an emergency measures, just to mitigate during physical distancing (our term in social distancing policy). The reasons behind third party services is to minimize operation costs, maintain security, and data management even it comes with a heavy price: unstructured data and teaching materials.

I got an impression that my kids school will return to conventional teaching methods once the pandemic ends. But one problem remains: what if our assumptions are wrong? What if this is a new normal that we have to live in right now?

Permanent change

Back to Mr Huang panel, he said that digital education system will provide some benefits if properly operated. One example is personalized teaching plan, since the infrastructure can support video storage management, we can tailor the syllabus based on school needs.

Data Storage

This factor alone, can help narrow the gap of education between regions and in the long run can benefit for other sectors than education.

This pandemic, said Mr Huang, force people to make a change to their behaviour. Some are temporary, but we can anticipate the one that are permanent. And education should be one of it. It is a good opportunity to kickstart the digital education system.

COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia has forced us to shift our perception about the definition of normal. Most of the business has come to an understanding that this pandemic will bring long term effect and they have to modify their business model. In the end, they are not just trying to survive, but generate revenue to keep the cashflow. So does with other aspects in life, we need to anticipate permanent behaviour change because of this pandemic.

Adapt or face the trouble

That panel was insightful for me during Digital Alibaba Cloud Day APAC 2020, and I’m sure about the other panels. Fortunately, we can still watch the replay on their site.


As one of the cloud provider company, Alibaba Cloud provide solutions for educational institute. Such as that teaches english for children in China. They need a system to provide video materials from the teachers located outside China for 35.000 courses real time.

In order to provide that service, VIPKid build a full- mesh network of online classrooms based on Alibaba Cloud VPC, Cloud Enterprise Network, Edge Nodes, and Express Connect. With network delay less than 200ms, the complaints due to internet reasons have dropped to less than 1 percent. That was a testimony from VIPKid CTO.

VIPKid CTO’s testimony

At the same time, Alibaba Cloud also offers incentives for small medium enterprises (SMEs) to kickstart their way to digital industry. They have rolled out US$ 30 million programme in form of support packages for 12 key products. The application has been opened since Thursday (24/4/2020) to June 22. For more information, just click this link.

Attending this webinar had me realize one thing. We can perceive this pandemic as a “disaster that should be mitigated and wait until everything returns to normal” or “an event that change how we behave and think permanently”. I prefer the later since there’s no sign of the pandemic will put us back to February 2020, before COVID-19 first reported. Let’s be realistic.

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