PCI Community voices on COVID-19

Eileen Clegg
Mar 16, 2020 · 4 min read

On a recent People-Centered Internet community call, participants shared their own experiences and work to address issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The View from Quarantine

Sara-Jayne “SJ” Terp, who is on her second week of self-quarantine north of Seattle, noted with a smile that she was an “early adopter” of social distancing in the Pacific Northwest, after suspected exposure to the virus while on a trip. She shared her “Daily Logs,” a suggested supply list, and tips for helping others in the community. SJ explained that the daily log was important because, “this is a time of change, when we come out of this we will not be the same. We need a way to touch base.”

From her personal experience with the quarantine, SJ noted that social isolation can present challenges for families and communities and the need for new ways to connect and share. “We have to think big about the social isolation..This is not just 10 days or a couple of weeks… We need to communicate to people that this is a crisis.” She emphasized that art, music and other sources of enjoyment will be critical, especially for children, as families stay at home together. Online museums, virtual concerts, music lessons, crafts will keep children not only amused, but learning.

“You can phone in orders to restaurants and pick up a nice meal and take it out, even if you can’t eat inside,” she said. But there need to be ways to support other local businesses and people providing services. “How do you keep things running? How can the Internet keep the local economies running”

Thinking Like a Futurist

Quantitative futurist and author, Amy Webb — who, in a pre-coronavirus world would have been presenting her “2020 Tech Trends” on the stage at SxSW in Austin (which she does every year) —described how she is helping her business clients think through the long-term impacts of the pandemic:

“Clients are trying to build predictive models, which can’t be done. There are too many variables. The global supply chain is too hard to predict,” she said. But there are forecasting tools that can help organizations prepare.

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Amy noted that while crisis centers are being set up to deal with the public health, she does not see businesses and other organizations setting up similar centers to help their own employees or customers deal with the changes ahead. “Now is the time to set up a cross functional tools for forecasting,” said Amy. Instead of making guesses or acting out of fear, business leaders should “rely on data, tools and pragmatism… Not the limbic system.”

Amy widely shares her approaches for imagining future scenarios. One method she shared is the creation of “axes of uncertainty” to pair different unknowns and imagine scenarios that might take place:

From Quantitative Futurist, Amy Webb’s “How Futurists Cope with Uncertainty

Learning from Singapore

PCI cofounder, Mei Lin Fung, was in her native Singapore when the COVID-19 outbreak began escalating in February and shared her view that the extensive modeling and transparency of data for decision-making helped society continue to function. “I felt safe in Singapore,” Mei Lin said. Despite the outbreak, extensive tracking and reporting provided the population with such a sense of safety that people were able to continue with their work and lives. She described a system in which people are tested for fever daily and wear badges showing they’ve had their test.

As described in MIT Technology Reveiw:

It’s not simply the ability to detect the cases and explain why they happened that makes Singapore such a role model in this epidemic; nucleic acid testing kits were rapidly developed and deployed to ports of entry. Within three hours, while individuals are quarantined on-site, officials can confirm whether or not they are infected with the virus before allowing them to enter.

The View From the UK

From London, Felix Velarde, shared his approach for decision-making in a time of uncertainty, with a little “game theory” and asking “what is the worst that can happen?”:

Clearly Do nothing always results in Don’t survive. But in total contrast Do something gives you some chance of surviving.

So by implication you must do something.

Problem is most people really aren’t doing something. They’re waiting for the government to make a decision for them. So now is the time for you to be a leader not a follower.

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