The Times asks whether corporations are ready for a pandemic. I’ve been asking myself the same question about schools, local government, telecommunications, technologists, local retail, and the rest of life.
The internet provides entirely new means of keeping life going even if we have to quarantine ourselves like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green. A few possibilities and questions:
* Schools should be ready to teach students remotely. I have no idea whether my district has a plan; I doubt it does. The last thing we want is children put at risk and putting communities at risk with their tendancy to spread germs. The next-to-last thing we want is for their education to stop. So they should be able to receive schooling thanks to technology. At best, this is via computers and the internet (insert “digital divide” PC screed here). At a minimum, this is via phones and conference calls.
* Cable companies, telephone companies, and power companies should make passing every home with bandwidth a priority, a matter of national security. They should be doing that for business anyway. If they don’t, then why not nationalize them before they implode on their own? And where do we stand with technology to enable large-scale wireless networks?
This, by the way, is FON’s opportunity to take off and do good. (And, no, I’m not on their advisory board.)
* These same telecommunications ventures need to provide easy and cheap or free means of running conference calls for schools and businesses.
This is Skype’s opportunity to rescue the economies of stricken regions. If I were Skype, I’d announce today that the company will provide free, large-scale conference calls for all schools.
* PBS, NPR, and commercial broadcasters should be prepared to air classroom instruction and educators should be prepared to give it.
* Every office needs a plan for running the business across distributed, distance networks. And if, God forbid, they have to do this, I’ll predict that this will become the new way to do business overnight. It will save rent.
* Every local retailer, especially supermarkets, should have plans for online and phone ordering and for delivery to homes, without face-to-face contact.
* Similarly, if I had a restaurant and a prayer of survival, I’d pull a deliver-and-run strategy out my hat.
* I’d sell Starbucks stock. Which makes me wonder whether some stock analysts have bird-flu pandemic strategies already mapped out. The sad thing is, they’re probably the best prepared.
What else should we be doing to use the internet to prepare for a pandemic (or another natural disaster or another terrorist attack)?