Technology & Innovation

02 Mar 2021

From vaccine to innovative business systems, digital leaders are leading us to the next frontier


The global pandemic has accelerated the need for more digitalization and adoption of smart technologies in the way we live, do business, work, study and even treat diseases like the COVID virus.

Combining science, technology and optimism, the development of Pfizer-BioNtech COVID vaccine in less than a year is nothing short of a miracle given the magnitude of the health crisis we’re facing on a global scale. This vaccine does not contain any live virus but rather chemically produced modified genetic code developed through a process known as the messenger RNA vaccine.

The scientists who invented the COVID vaccine, the billionaire Turkish-German couple Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who have dedicated their lives to the field of oncology and infectious diseases, can be said as digital leaders in their own ways for successfully combining science with technology, thus, help humankind survive its biggest health crisis in modern history.

Virtual ways in interacting are now the new normal and new skills have emerged to survive the digital future we’re now dealing with. Without a doubt, we would need both digital and human skills to blend in regardless of our age, race or status in life.

We’re all accustomed now using global social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, Zoom, etc., in communicating with family, friends and work. But the future may become even digitalized and globalized thanks to the hastened digitalization of things.

Both legendary and new digital leaders are convinced there’s no stopping the 4th Industrial Revolution which the World Economic Forum described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines. 

WEF said “while these capabilities are reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the Third Industrial Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies. Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the Blockchain.”

Bill Gates, the American billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, through his philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed at least $1.75 billion to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic which include support for some makers of vaccines, diagnostics and potential treatments.

Like other digital pioneers, Gates believe combining technology with science is the way to defeat the pandemic and future ones.

“I predict that mRNA vaccines will become faster to develop, easier to scale, and more stable to store over the next five to 10 years. That would be a huge breakthrough, both for future pandemics and for other global health challenges,” Gates said in the foundation’s annual letter.

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey had pledged US$1 billion to help in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. That’s about 28% of his net worth but Dorsey said in a Tweet, “Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime… “I hope this inspires others to do something similar.”

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the education, science, and policy philanthropy of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, founded in 2015, announced giving $13.6 million to fund a nine-month research project to better understand the prevalence of Coronavirus in the Bay Area. 

The project is a collaboration between UC San Francisco, Stanford University and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a nonprofit organization separate from CZI that has a noble mission of curing, preventing or managing every disease on the planet.

This year, the richest man in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, pledged $10 billion to fight climate change through the Bezos Earth Fund. His generous ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, also donated $5 billion of her fortune to hundreds of nonprofits, at a time when they needed it the most.

And there’s Google.org, the charitable arm of the giant tech search engine company Google founded in 2005. Every year, the organization commits about US$100 million in investments and grants to nonprofit groups. 

It is also noted for several significant grants to nonprofits using technology and data in innovative ways to support racial justice, educational opportunity, crisis response after health epidemics and natural disasters, and issues affecting the San Francisco Bay Area community where it is headquartered. 

Digital leaders have no doubt led us to new possibilities in the 21st Century, and for many, paying it forward is a priority to lead us to the next frontiers.