ATHIKA is a Knowledge Alliance among Universities and SMEs* that proposes to explore innovative approaches for technologically advanced training and support that explicitly integrates humanistic concerns, aimed at increasing the successful implementation of ICT – Internet of Things, Big data and Artificial Intelligence Systems for the ehealth sector. The latest outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic takes the central focus while the consortium is co-creating a MOOC on eHealth Opportunities & Challenges: IoT, AI and Ethics.

China tapped into big data and AI, and other digital tools as the virus spread through the nation in order to track and contain the outbreak. The lessons learned there have continued to spread across the world as other countries fight the spread of the virus and use digital technology to develop real-time forecasts and arm healthcare professionals and government decision-makers with intel they can use to predict the impact of the coronavirus.

In Europe and America, privacy considerations for citizens are of bigger concern than they are in China, yet medical researchers and bioethics experts understand the power of technology to support contact tracing in a pandemic.

Many countries have deploy mobile apps that could provide valuable data for an integrated coronavirus control strategy. These apps try to identify everyone an infected person has been in contact with and isolate all “compromised” individuals. This strategy requires good testing tools (which must be developed for each virus at full speed once identified) and a mobile or wearable app that tracks contacts automatically by proximity of devices. With big data tools of this sort, all compromised individuals can be tracked or isolated.

This is a dystopian approach, to be sure. For threats of this magnitude, however, we need to think outside the box. We need to apply deep-learning algorithms to big data in order to identify and stop virus propagation before is too late. Complex ethical dilemmas abound. Who can we trust with all these data? Does giving away our privacy erode our hard-won freedom and independence?

ATHIKA will invite engineering students to tackle these complex ethical dilemmas, bringing a humanistic approach to the engineering education while addressing the most important new research in the world of AI and IoT linked to Healthcare.

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*ATHIKA partners: La Salle-URL (Universitat Ramon Llull), The University of West Scotland, The University of Tartu, Technopolis Group, MCRIT, Fundació TIC Salut Social, Kaunas Science and Technology Park, Pharmatics Limited, Technosens,