Role of technology during a crisis

In the past few years, across the world we have faced many crisis situations. Whether it is a flood zone and the cities or state is cutoff, or tsunami effect and aftermath, or earthquakes and taking stock of people who are alive. Think of the many incidents and the number of technologies, and our communication challenges that have been occurred in the past decade or so! There are so many aspects we get to learn from one incident to the other! Sharing some of what I have observed and grown to respect over the years!

  1. Facebook introduced a Mark-as-safe feature. I remember the times before that! Especially during 9/11, my friends were survivors from one the buildings and they walked together out of New York for miles, and the next day we heard from them. Those 24 hours were tough for all of our friends and families. That feeling of relief is priceless! In the incidents after FB launched the feature, where one can mark themselves and their friends or family to be safe, it has made us turn to facebook – with a different expectation during a crisis! Thank you FB 🙂
  2. Cell phone and network coverage: The speed and reliability shown by wireless providers to ensure there is network connectivity during the crisis always amazes me. Any disruption and touch wood, that is the biggest foundation of reliability that we have all come to rely on. Thanks to all the wireless & internet service providers, organizations can ask their teams to telecommute (work from home remotely)
  3. Whatsapp: Am seeing people call it the whatsapp university these days 🙂 So much of social awareness that it is hard to differentiate whether it is a mass panic or mass awareness, but the feeling of empathy to share whatever information preventative or otherwise with all their cirlces of influence in all possible social media circles is amazing! We have started using technology to support our human needs when in a crisis! Never before has information percolation & mass reach been so easily possible!
  4. Twitter: The way the human supply chain forms during a crisis, with food vendors, donations, plumbers, service providers, to support the common man’s needs, no technology can pre-empt and provide that! No amount of training is adequate when the whole world is a consumer suddenly 🙂 The platform’s ease of use facilitates multiple business uses and opportunities!
  5. Amazon & Delivery services: When there is a state of emergency, after enquiring about safety of the individual, the next question is what are you doing about groceries and basic sanitation needs. Somehow, amazon’s platform has a multitude of entrepreneurs and business owners, pre-empting the needs like masks, gadgets, reusable batteries, inverters, drains (the list is long :)) and provide them through the most promising service providers. Just type the most common thing you are looking for during the current crisis and they will have it – some vendor on the platform will be selling it!
  6. Google sheets: To anyone who knows excel (one of the critical tools for the current age :)), google sheets is something similar. The way we used it during Chennai floods – after evaluating a variety of tools in the market, was amazing! We ran a Call center operation from across the globe, with the missing people info and contact details updated on the google sheets, and from a privacy standpoint – only provide access to the people who were vetted to access the info, provide read, edit and update access and overall run a poll to monitor the progress over conference calls. When working on hundreds of thousands of people, having an online system that can instantly be setup into a backend workflow with full privacy and security features accessible by people in a controlled manner across the globe is amazing 🙂
  7. Tele-schooling: During the current COVID-19 crisis, some of the US states have declared State of Emergency and are asking schools and parents to be prepared to tele-school 🙂 The speed at which the technology in this space will evolve and be globally adopted during such a short time, is something that raises my curiosity.

While the crisis scenarios vary, and the assistance by government for natural and bio hazards are different, the technology and communication challenges to bring us together seem to be similar.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On the current crisis, sharing some of the related topics on COVID-19 published by WHO and CDC. Please look at your country guidelines on the situation or follow the genuine information shared over whatsapp channels.

  1. World Health organization – Technical Guidance
  2. World Health organization – Advice for public
  3. CDC guidelines on how to get your household ready
  4. CDC guidelines to different groups – Workplace, Childcare providers, Colleges, First responders, Community and faith based organization

Key is to be aware and prepared, yet not panic!

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