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How IT helped the world during the CoronaVirus Pandemic, and how it can continue to help


The 2020 global coronavirus pandemic has shown how Health, Food, and Logistics are essential services to allow the integrity of a nation in a time of need.

However, these weeks of quarantine showed that IT it’s a critical part for the success of the emergency reaction and to be able to continue providing services, here are some examples:

Remote Working

Allowing people to continue to work, and especially still be able to collaborate together, during a time of isolation is certainly one for the most visible results of the internet revolution. Remote working raises both the safety of the employees and the throughput of the companies, which are not required to shut down. Of course, this applies to office work only.

Hopefully, this forced worldwide remote working experience will help some companies realize that they can save their employees money and hours of commute time every day (i.e. they will be happier) by simply letting them work from home when necessary.

VPN as a Disaster Recovery

Of course, to attain the results above, VPN technologies are essentials; the companies that even before the crisis had a well-thought network infrastructure are certainly the ones that suffered less from the transition to 100% remote working.

The pandemic sure tested the disaster recovery policies in place for the companies, in ways that most sysadmins didn’t predict, and surely didn’t test.

Video Conference

Other than working, video conference is used by schools to keep providing lessons, here in Italy even exams and bachelor declarations are done remotely, allowing the unlucky students of this period to keep pursuing their education.

Video conferencing is used outside work and schools too, between friends and relatives in order to just be together in this period when everyone is physically alone; in China, even clubbing has gone virtual

With the lesson being how easy it is to interact with people at distance, hopefully we’ll wake up in a world where business trips, and other kinds of appointments, will be made only if necessary.

Streaming Services

In a world where sports are suspended and the current TV programming is tailored around the few people that were at home during working hours usually, streaming services are the true entertainment saviors. On-demand content for all the family, at any hour.

Many new customers where onboarded thanks to the new wave of boredom due to the quarantine, hopefully (for the companies), some of them will be retained and not be churned away after the emergency ends; this will lead to new investments and commitments, still, the fragmentation issue that’s falling upon streaming providers may get worse.

Internet Infrastructure

When I was choosing my home, people thought that I was crazy since one of the deciding factors was the availability of fast internet connection and good 4G coverage (5G wasn’t a thing, there are still no maps). Now, it’s noticeable that having decent connectivity at home allows you to work remotely productively, and enjoy other perks as the internet is the only outside window while locked inside your home.

With people working from home or enjoying streaming services like Netflix, Youtube, Amazon and others, the network traffic reached a new record high (e.g. in Milan the primary interexchange reached a record-breaking 1.1Tbit/s of traffic in the days following the lockdown). So much so that the EU has requested streaming websites to lower the streaming quality in order not to clog the entire internet.

It’s getting more important day by day for the world to have an always faster, reliable and capillary network access: it’s important to work both on the big interexchanges and to the access of the single household; for the latter, 5G should help bridge the gap where fiber can’t reach.

The Cloud

Managing your systems is way easier during a pandemic if your machines are not in your data center, where you need to have your employees to be present, but in the Cloud, where your admins can access every aspect of your cloud infrastructure from anywhere.

Other than a cost-saving measure, as it already is, cloud computing can move some critical infrastructure issues from your company some someone else’s, which however has all the experience and the means to deal with them. A cloud service can be used even in quarantine.

Data Analysis

Least, but absolutely crucial during this pandemic, Data.

From gathering, distribution, to Machine Learning, data has been essential to understanding how the pandemic is evolving in both global and local scales. Researchers were able to start working on the Coronavirus genome right away since its data was publicly shared once its genome was first sequenced and isolated.

In another example, the Italian Government has provided datasets with the reported cases in Italy in a timely manner and it’s managing a GitHub repository which is updated daily; I’ve made my little contribution too by modeling the data into a publicly shared PowerBi report.

There is still much to do, many countries don’t have a publicly centralized repository with data at a good enough level of detail, there are global statistics for cases and deaths, but few countries expose data down to the characteristic of the single case, which would be a great starting point in order to understand the current pandemic and preventing the next one.

Ending Thought

We are living in a dire situation, which however is being managed in the best way possible, also thanks to IT. If we can learn from the events of this period, we’ll get up again stronger and in a better society, thanks to the knowledge that fighting our latest enemy has bestowed upon us.

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Emanuele Meazzo

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It's just Emanuele showing you what you can do in the Microsoft Data Platform

Emanuele Meazzo

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