The COVID-19 Pandemic & Y2K: Search for Silver Linings
The first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States brought back memories of the 9-11 attacks for many: Sports and flights canceled. Society in a state of shock. Calls to band together and be resilient.
Memories of Y2K
For me as an IT professional, it also brought back memories of Y2K. Early on in the Y2K scenario, some worried that the crisis was overblown and likely wouldn’t be much of an issue: much as we saw in public consciousness in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Those of us who worked on Y2K projects in the late 1990s know there was a massive effort underway to prepare for 12/31/99 rolling over to 01/01/00 and prevent potentially devastating consequences. We know that without that effort, almost all computer processing would have been affected, and indeed some elevators, energy supply chains, and banking processes would have collapsed.
Fortunately, the $100 billion spent in the US and the three- to four times that amount spent globally not only prevented a crisis, but also brought about significant long-term positive change. The silver linings from the Y2K effort included an investment in new and more robust systems, adding IT personnel to the C-suite in corporate America, the rare coordination of government resources to prevent a problem, and the acceptance of outsourcing (especially to India) that never went away but continued to grow.
I imagine those in the healthcare space are hoping for some of the same results, with the majority of negative consequences averted and long-term positive changes in place.
In the technology space, we’re already seeing many “silver lining” benefits from this global disaster recovery test. Millions (perhaps billions when we include students) are learning how much they can accomplish working and studying remotely. We’re definitely saving on transportation costs (and time) with video calls and webinars. Employment barriers are dropping as companies realize that geography really doesn’t have to be a barrier – opening up access to a whole new talent pool. Conference and training costs are dropping as so much learning happens online. Necessity really is the mother of invention, and I am sure much more is yet to be learned.
If you have favorite unexpected learnings from working from home, please share them with us, and good luck with your newly honed virtual happy hour skills!