Joint creative efforts of government, business and civic society led Lithuania through the first wave of COVID-19 almost unscathed. Lithuania has one of the lowest virus rates in the world. Presented here are 5 innovative solutions that cut across a wide spectrum of social problems and used digital and AI technology to fast-track the response to crisis. Some projects were developed in as little as 48 hours.
Lithuania has been very successful in containing the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Presently, 1,875 coronavirus cases are registered, which makes 671 cases per million of the population. With 79 deaths and 1,571 recovered patients, Lithuania can be described as almost unscathed.
A timely fiscal response has brought results – Lithuania’s economy is coping well with the Covid19 challenges so far. The data by Statistics of Lithuania of the 2nd quarter of 2020 shows the drop in GDP rate by -3,7%, though the prognosis was much worse.
Recently Lithuania was ranked fourth in the pilot Index for the effectiveness of countries’ early response to Covid-19 in 33 OECD countries developed for the UN Sustainable Development Report. The success of Lithuania was also recognized by the international tourism community. Lithuania was listed among the 20 safest destinations to travel after the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
Making the country safe required solidarity and cooperation of different parts of society. Lithuanian government, businesses and civic society joined efforts seeking to find solutions to the large variety of problems that occurred while facing the pandemic. Registering and testing COVID-19 patients, coping with increased flow of requests for testing, helping businesses find new niches in the lock-down environment, ensuring the continuous education of children – these were some of the issues that required quick and creative solutions.
Listed below are 5 of the most effective technological innovations developed in Lithuania in response to the first wave of the pandemic.
- COVID-19 monitoring and information system. During the COVID-19 crisis data flows increased between different government services and public institutions. The data concerning new cases of COVID-19, as well as testing, recovery and death of patients had to be gathered, analysed and acted upon as quickly as possible. It was important to keep the society and public institutions updated about the spread of the virus and ensure the prompt reaction of law enforcement to incidents related to quarantine law. To ensure the integration and analysis of all COVID-19 related data, one central COVID-19 monitoring and information system was developed with the help of the IT business community. The development of this project had a very short time frame, during which developers solved all essential tasks of data collection, transmission and analysis. Telecommunications operators were also involved ensuring that people can be informed on health issues using short messaging and other communication services. The work on this project has provided the government and society with important revelations and paved the way for a major leap in the IT development of the country.
- Virtual communication robot ViLTė. The solution helping respond to the massive flow of questions and requests concerning COVID-19 spread in Lithuania was developed during the hackathon organized by the IT business community. In 48 hours, the developers of ViLTė produced a solution that made the reliable information more accessible to the public and reduced the workload of the call centers. The functioning of ViLTė is based on artificial intelligence technologies – the robot learns as it communicates. The more requests ViLTė answers, the more exact and reliable information it is able to provide.
- E-commerce stimulation initiative No Quarantine on Internet. Just several days after the quarantine was imposed, entrepreneurship-fostering agency Enterprise Lithuania came forward with the e-commerce stimulation initiative. The special platform of the project No Quarantine on Internet provided a list of more than 1100 Lithuanian e-shops organized into categories as well as tips and instructions on how to create your own e-shop, partnership proposals, e-commerce training and consultations. “Overall, during the pandemic we have united the efforts of 120 mentors – established e-commerce professionals, and 25 partners who help businesses develop technological e-commerce solutions,” said Daina Kleopienė, director general of Enterprise Lithuania. “We also organized 10 virtual training sessions presenting e-commerce marketing. At the same time we used social media, influencers and press to encourage people to buy from e-shops and support small and medium-sized businesses in Lithuania. Although the quarantine has ended in Lithuania, we continue this initiative to strengthen e-commerce skills of Lithuanian businesses.”
- Distance learning, work, play and communication environment for all Lithuanian teachers and schoolchildren. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Lithuania and its partners, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports and the National Education Association, provided all teachers and schoolchildren with access to the Microsoft 365 software package. Teachers could not only ensure a quality distance learning process, but also experiment with new forms of lessons, such as moving them to the world of the hugely popular game Minecraft. “We have been cooperating with the Lithuanian education sector for a long time, but the challenge of pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of schools like never before,” explained Simonas Černiauskas, country manager of Microsoft Lithuania. “We hope this country-wide project will help transform and expand the boundaries of traditional learning. Some schools have already integrated IT tools into their activities and created virtual classes offering each student a learning experience tailored to their personal needs. It is also important that schools can use safe and GDPR-compliant tools in doing so.”
- Emotional help app “Act on Crisis.” This app that helps maintain emotional balance was awarded the second prize among 15,000 participants of the international hackathon “The Global Hack.” The app provides all services of emotional balancing – from breathing exercises to private consultations with professional therapists – as well as community chats in the virtual chatting rooms. During the quarantine, 16 professional psychologists offered consultations in Lithunian, English and Russian, all of them free of charge. Presently, the developers of the app continue expanding their cooperation with organizations providing psychological support to youth and people in crisis. After the testing period in Lithuania, the app should enter the global market.
All these initiatives helped accumulate unique experience on the importance of human cooperation across sectors and the value that technology plays in solving the complicated problems posed by the COVID-19 challenge. They provide a firm ground in preparing for the possible second wave of the pandemic and point a direction of further digital development of Lithuania beyond the present crisis.