Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maintaining services online during a flu pandemic

The Australian National University has released a revised ANU Pandemic Response Plan. Like many such plans, this envisages a progressive reduction of organisation activities with all but essential activities being stopped. However, this is based on the assumption that educational activities require gatherings of people. Instead, education and many administrative services, can be maintained using telecommunications, while avoiding face-to-face gatherings of people. Most staff and students can stay at home, but maintain many educational and research activities online.

Some simple steps would be required, such as checking that procedures allow for distribution of electronic documents in place of paper ones. Some procedures for example may refer to requiring "signatures". This requirement can usually be met with an email message with the person's name typed on it, but where a higher level of authentication is required, submission via a password protected system might be needed . Staff may need to be issued with additional equipment at home and trained in its use. Students may need advice on what to get. Online courses would need to be checked to make sure they work on slower home links and ones overseas. Servers would need to be checked for capacity.

In addition to telephone and Internet services, educators can make use of broadcast and cable TV services, including in Canberra Transact, to provide content. In the event of a pandemic, is likely that a significant proportion of the Canberra population will be at home and looking for something to keep them stimulated. The universities and schools might make some materials available for this purpose.

ps: The ANU COMP2410 students have completed their assignment on designing a swine flu advice web site for Australia. This expertise is now available, if needed.

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