2020 certainly didn’t waste any time getting off to an interesting start, and doesn’t show signs of abating any time soon.

The latest challenge – COVID-19 is going to compound the difficulties felt by many Australian communities who have being doing it very tough. Dramatic drops in International and Domestic tourism, production freezes as factories are shut down, and potentially many people not able to work as the service industry also suffers dramatic cuts. And all that before you factor in the direct effect of illness or deaths… and the ability of our Health systems to actually cope with any large scale outbreak.

As IT Professionals we have a role in helping mitigate the impact of this crisis. Whether it’s helping people work from home, writing software to model the likely spread of the disease and its health impact, helping schools work out how to educate if students and teachers are restricted to home, and keeping the systems running that allow us to communicate and stay in touch – it will be a busy time. We also need to recognise that we’re lucky – most of us have the luxury of being able and comfortable working from home – whereas many don’t have the option. Some organisations are only now grappling with questions like “previously we didn’t want this team to work from home… and now we need to work out how we make that possible”. If your job involves face to face interaction (think of almost every casual retail and service job out there) – they are facing a very different predicament than most in IT.

So what can we do?

Help your organisations, friends and families prepare, and navigate the technical challenges. Making sure that people are testing these strategies now. Do they have the equipment and systems necessary? Are staff comfortable using it? Communication plans for a workforce that are suddenly splintered and isolated, instead of sitting side by side in close knit teams? Help them sift through the inevitable misinformation and focus on the genuine and important messages. Meeting up in public may not be the best idea right now, but we can still share the stories with each other, no matter how small.

And lastly – stay safe.

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