Computer professionals have an important role in ensuring services are provided to the community. They need to become familiar with the precautions to take to protect their health, and that of their staff, so they are then able to help their clients. Computer professionals also need to be ready to help deliver government, industry and education services online, on a scale not yet seen. Professionals need to ensure they are equipped to work from home securely, in the event workplaces are closed.
The Australian Department of Health has activated its Health Sector Emergency Response Plan, indicating the seriousness of the situation. The US CDC has identified teleworking as a measure that may be used to maintain business while limiting infection. Australian universities have had a head start with this, due to the need to support international students unable to attend campus due to travel bans. Government agencies, schools, and companies will be hard-pressed to support their staff, and clients, working remotely, on a much larger scale.
Computer professionals need to discuss measures with their clients across all sectors of government and industry, now. There will be a need for leadership. At a meeting a few weeks ago the question was asked who we turned to for advice and decisions. I had the sobering realization that we were it: there was no one to turn to, and others would be looking to us for advice. Computer professionals need to be ready to dispense calm, authoritative advice.
On 14 July 1997, as the President of the Australian Computer Society, I advised professionals that they must assess and report the extent of the Y2K problem in systems they were responsible for. They were not obliged to take remedial action, just report to their clients on the extent of the problem. With this advice, we were too cautious, and did not provide enough guidance. Governments and large corporations overacted to Y2K and spent more money than it warranted. There is less scope for throwing money at the COVID-19 problem, and much more potential for panic.
Previously I have had some involvement in planning IT for emergencies at the Department of Defence, and pandemic response. In my book "Digital Teaching In Higher Education" (2017), I warned that the flow of international students to Australia could be disrupted very quickly and set out the steps for e-learning. I have been teaching this way at ANU since 2009, and have provided some advice for educators for the current situation.
The video contains images that were used under a Creative Commons License.