March 2020 Tech Upload
New IT News
Welcome New Members!
Coronavirus and Data
Coronavirus. By now we’re likely all sick of hearing about it in the news and at work. But if you aren’t thinking about the impacts, you should be. As global pandemics seem to be an annual occurrence, organizations need to be thinking about how to keep the lights on while reducing the spread of disease, and the IT department plays a critical role in ensuring business continuity.
Business continuity and emergency preparedness should cover a broad range of risks, from fires, volcanoes, cyber attack, and more – and yes, even viral outbreaks. As a project manager at my former workplace, I had to build contingency plans for both the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 as well as the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010. Both hit the projects I was working on as we neared the training roll out which involved flying individuals in from other countries. In both cases, we were able to book video conference rooms as a Plan B, allowing the projects to move forward. With the travel restrictions being implemented in quarantined cities and regions around the world today, training and other gatherings would have to be done via webinar on the employee’s laptop.
If Northeast Wisconsin gets hit with covid-19, or the next epidemic, is your workforce able to work from home? Do you provide laptops for them to take home? Can they connect to the internet from their home?
These questions may seem silly, but they are questions local school districts are asking of their students and employees. Districts and colleges are preparing to move to online delivery of classes in order to avoid disrupting student education. For some districts, like Oshkosh Area School District, this is fairly straightforward. They’ve been working strategically over the past several years to provide Chromebooks to all their students. Each student is issued a Chromebook during the first week of class as part of their 1:1 policy. With only 5% of the student body unable to access the internet from home, Oshkosh Area Schools has decided the online model will work. Other districts, like Sturgeon Bay, may not be able to leverage an online class model. Due to lack of broadband or even cellular access in much of the area, roughly 50% of their student body cannot access the internet at home. As a result, their 1:1 policy involves providing Chromebooks for students to use while on school grounds, but not at home.
As companies and organizations grapple with the connectivity issues, HR policies, and how to best handle production impacts, we find ourselves dusting off continuity of operations plans and updating them for the current threats. IT naturally plays an integral role in both providing virtual alternatives for physical activities as well as ensuring the IT systems themselves are adequately protected and up to the task.
But the current crisis points to other important IT-related issues to consider. Data and the communication of it has become vitally important to many officials to communicate the severity of the situation. How many cases? Where are they? Who is most at risk? Etc. These are important questions that those with data analytics skills can help answer. As an example of how data is used, consider this interactive dashboard from Johns Hopkins, complete with a map and a Github site for the underlying data.
Data skills are also important for the population at large in interpreting the information made available. For example, as undeniably cool as the Johns Hopkins dashboard is, it omits important information such as the demographics of those affected. As it turns out, Covid-19 is far more dangerous to old people than it is to younger people.
It may be difficult to get a handle on how seriously to take this situation – is it worse than the flu? Is everyone just panicking? But regardless, the advice to wash your hands with soap frequently is sound – it also helps prevent the spread of many other viruses. And don’t forget to wipe down your devices and keyboards – many viruses can stay alive on surfaces for hours. Here are some tips from Apple on how to clean your cell phone.
And of course, stop hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and face masks!
- April 1: TechTalk at MPTC…Cyber Security w/ Dave Madson, Senior Security Engineer for the City of Oshkosh.
- April 14: NEW CS Advisory board
- April 30: Quarterly membership meeting