Worldwide Sprint or Marathon?

The speed of COVID-19 spread has forced the world to act with unprecedented haste.  From world governments to individual households, everyone has suddenly had to scrap plans, make new ones, and then try to hang on to some kind of new normal as the pandemic causes more unexpected and rapid shifts.

In the tech world, watching everyone move so fast has been quite a sight.  There’s been a digital flotilla of tech people focusing on, and turning their expertise toward, solving the problems related to COVID-19. But with increased speed comes increased noise, which is a mixed blessing.

It truly is encouraging, and at times downright inspiring, to see the wealth of new tools and techniques to track, prevent, treat, and in general fight COVID-19.

But finding the best parts and pieces amidst the unrelenting noise is a daily — if not hourly — challenge. As with all technology, hasty execution often invites privacy issues or poor security, like those Zoom has experienced even as its daily active user numbers (DAUs) have reached the stratosphere. Companies can also suddenly bump into regulatory hurdles or interoperability issues.

Another challenge is separating the do-gooders from the charlatans. When is a company truly being selfless and when are they just using the pandemic to slip in some positive marketing about their widget? When is it both? It’s often hard to tell — and one should generally be suspicious any time a for-profit company proclaims altruism — but it’s even more difficult to discern amid the cacophony. Of course, even if there are knock-on or hidden benefits for companies that give away valuable things for free, it’s hard not to be pleased with what IBMGoogle, smaller companies like Element AI, and many others have done to foster research and collaboration in the fight against COVID-19.

This is a worldwide sprint and a marathon at the same time, and it can be tough to assimilate all the necessary information — or in our case, to sift through the raft of news and analysis stories that come our way. But finding the signal through the noise is a skill we all have to acquire now, because combatting this global pandemic is the greatest challenge any of us has faced, and it won’t wait for us to catch up.