Saturday, April 1, 2023

Why use a VPN for remote employees?

VPN for remote employees

History of VPN

The idea of using VPN for remote employees is not new. VPN dates to 1996 when a Microsoft employee developed the peer-to-peer (or point-to-point) tunnelling protocol, also known as PPTP. PPTP was a way of creating secure network between users by encrypting data and forming a tunnel over a LAN (local area network) or WAN (wide area network). Since then, the use of VPN for remote employees has become commonplace.

VPN for Companies

In the early days, using VPN for remote employees was not the objective. Rather, large companies and organizations needed a private and secure way to share information between offices in different locations worldwide. Crucially, filesharing and access had to be as if employees were located in the same office. VPN made this possible.

VPN for Remote Employees

Telecommuting, working from home, remote work or having a flexible workplace is an employment arrangement that allows workers not to commute to the office.  In the late twentieth century telecommuting gained popularity but was seen by most employers as a privilege. It also had many limitations around security and access to information. In the twenty-first century working remotely is widely accepted with companies employing individuals all over the world without having to purchase or rent office space. Thanks to VPN technology, dispersed employees working wherever they please can be done without putting company data at risk. There are many business and employee benefits to using VPN.

Business Benefits of VPN

  • Company data may be shared easily anywhere in the world
  • Data and information are protected within the VPN environment
  • Provides online anonymity
  • Allows a physical presence in multiple locations
  • Eliminates need for office space
  • Seamless integration with other employees and offices

Personal Benefits of VPN

  • Work from home
  • Saves on commuting expenses
  • Eliminates commuting time
  • Allows more flexible hours
  • Can work when infectious without putting co-workers at risk
  • Easier to balance work and life commitments

VPN for Remote Employees Summary

Over the last several decades, the adoption of the internet as a business tool has permitted unparalleled rapid communication and transfer of data and information. Without the confines of surface mail, the speed at which business can be done has increased dramatically. Telecommuting and remote employment is accepted as normal and even desirable. However, the ease of information and data sharing on the internet brings its own challenges. Without suitable security in place, proprietary business information is vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals. VPN for remote employees is the solution.


  1. Virtual Private Networks: How They Work And Why You Might Need One
  2. VPN’s for Remote Workers: A Beginners Guide for 2019

Unemployment claims don’t capture full impact of Covid


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, few Americans have been left untouched. Even those lucky enough to stay healthy are facing economic uncertainty or, in many cases, financial ruin.

More than 26 million people have filed for unemployment insurance over the past five weeks, a spike unmatched by anything recorded in U.S. labor data.

Unlike the more gradual layoffs and furloughs of previous recessions, widespread COVID-19 outbreaks have forced cities and states to suddenly shut down public gatherings—and with them, the lifeblood of multiple industries.

For University of Chicago economist Dan Black, the speed of the current economic shutdown is what makes the future so cloudy.

A leading labor expert at the Harris School of Public Policy, Black explained why unemployment claims don’t fully capture the grim economic picture; which industries might be hit hardest; and what factors he’ll be watching.

How do you project the economic future, given the absence of historical precedents?

That’s the problem. You’d like to be able to have data that says: “We’ve been here before.”

In the Great Recession, we could go back to the Great Depression. But we haven’t ever had an unemployment rate ramp up the way it’s ramped up here. It’s been unbelievably fast. Before, things were just humming.

Unemployment was low. And we just told people to go home. We’ve never basically caused our own recession by telling people to go home. Figuring out what the impact will be is going to be quite difficult.

I’m confident that we’ll have a recovery. What I’m not confident about is whether it’ll be a long, slow recovery like it was coming out of 2008, when we had to reallocate labor.

Or is this going to be the sort of thing that, once we get to the end of this, the firms that have laid off people—Macy’s, the restaurants—all send notices back to their employees to return? In the latter scenario, we could come out of the recession very quickly.

Part of it is going to depend on how successful we are at keeping these establishments viable. The small restauranteur is going to find this very, very hard to do.

Even a lot of larger restaurants will find this hard to do. A lot of places we think of as big companies are actually owned by franchisees. They’re the ones who will be responsible for capital costs.

Are there specific industries that seem especially vulnerable?

Part of the current paradox is, you’re trying to flatten the curve of the pandemic. What that means economically is, you’re pushing it out into the future. That lengthens the time the recession is going on.

The longer places stay out of business, the harder it’s going to be for them to get back into business. This could accelerate the decline of businesses that were not particularly healthy. We are in an era where retail is on the decline, so maybe this recession is going to accelerate that.

I haven’t seen a recession like this, where we just send people home—and with good reason. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done it.

But it does make the economic recovery highly unusual. It’s just unprecedented. You don’t know how businesses are going to behave. Are companies going to be very conservative in rehiring, or are they going to be aggressive?

What measures do you think the government should take to help businesses stay in place?

The stimulus packages have looked pretty interesting.

They are trying to give loans that they’ll convert to grants to keep employment up. But usually, when you have a recession and you see businesses failing, in some sense, you want them to fail. It’s a way of getting rid of the weaker establishments.

Here, you could be making great money, and now, we’ve just turned down the spigot.

What happens when people run out of unemployment benefits?

Well, we get six months. In six months, if we’re still on partial lockdown—we may not all go back to work simultaneously—I’m sure Congress will, particularly in an election year, strive to give relief to people suffering.

The problem is, unemployment insurance isn’t necessarily the solution for everyone. Some people don’t qualify. They don’t work enough. They don’t work in a covered sector. People who are graduating are looking for jobs.

There aren’t any. But they aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance because most of them haven’t been employed in a formal sense. So, those people are just missing the benefits. It’s going to be hard on people.

Is there a measure or statistic that captures the impact on those people better than unemployment filings?

I think the best measure is the employment-to-population ratio. You could look at the number of employed people and divide by the population, or adjust and divide by the number of people aged 18 to 66.

That’s often a better statistic than unemployment anyway, because unemployment doesn’t capture discouraged workers. If you’re not looking for a job, we don’t count you as unemployed.

Suppose next March, the economy has only partially opened up. There may be a large percentage of 2020 graduates who have simply quit looking. Maybe they’re thinking about going to graduate school.

Are there useful comparisons from the past, even if the scenarios are different?

We’ve never seen anything quite like this. This is very unique in the economic history of the United States, and in the world.

During the Spanish Flu of 1918, there were cities that implemented what we know think of as social distancing. The trouble with that era is, we had lousy economic statistics. We weren’t out sampling people.

You could look at GDP and things like that, but we didn’t have the modern statistical apparatus that really developed in the U.S. during the late 1940s and 1950s. Because of that, it’s hard to say, ‘Well, we can learn from what San Francisco did relative to what Pittsburgh did.’

We did engage in attempts to limit the spread of the Spanish Flu. Maybe that would be informative. But that’s over 100 years ago. The world was very different then.

What are you going to watch for in the coming weeks and months?

I fear that the pandemic will produce a really regressive burden. It’s going to hit low-skilled workers the hardest.

I think most high-skilled people can sort of limp through using Zoom and other media to carry out their business.

If I were to pick an industry that could get very hard hit by this, retail is already kind of a weak sector because of the huge growth in online shopping. I’m going to watch for unemployment in those sorts of sectors. Restaurants and movie theaters—you’ve really got to worry about what’s going to happen to these sorts of entities.

I’ll be curious to see what this does to online retailing. Places like Walmart and Target are already getting into online retailing because it’s way cheaper. It’s very expensive to run a store.

You also start to hope we start making more investments in public health. Maybe we’ll see more efforts to prepare hospitals for the next pandemic. There will be a next one—we just don’t know what it is.

  • Jack Wang is News Officer for the Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities at the University of Chicago.

Medical drones could help beat the Covid crisis


The COVID-19 pandemic is, by necessity, leading to a flurry of innovation. And now drones are taking their turn in the limelight.

In a recent announcement, the UK government said that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be ferrying vital personal protective equipment (PPE) from the English mainland to NHS staff on the Isle of Wight as soon as early May. The Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drones, which can transport 100kg for over 600 miles, should be able to make the crossing in ten to 15 minutes.

This is just one example of the radical technological change that is being nodded through to help meet the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.

The usefulness of drones to the medical sector has been clear for several years, and many well-funded start-ups have been trialling services globally.

In developed countries, where road infrastructure is good, airspace regulation is strict, and health services have well-established logistics networks, companies have struggled to get much traction. The company Matternet’s trial in Switzerland was a rare success – ferrying medical lab samples between hospitals in Lugano aboard multi-rotor drones – though even that has had teething troubles.

Instead, most of the innovation has taken place in developing countries – where the need is more acute, and the barriers more surmountable – with Zipline making progress in several African countries. The company’s service uses fixed-wing drones to drop packages, including blood, to rural areas with poor roads.

So this new trial marks a welcome departure for the UK.

At Nesta, we’ve been exploring the future of drones in the UK for the past two-and-a-half years. We’ve also looked into a number of hypothetical uses for drones – coincidentally, including the transport of medical items across the Solent, the body of water between mainland Britain and the Isle of Wight.

What we found suggests that this trial is likely to have positive implications that last beyond the coronavirus crisis. Not only will it perform a valuable public service now, but it will also help dismantle some of the barriers that lie in the path of wider drone adoption.

Getting technical

In a 2018 report, we found that there is already some enthusiasm for public service drone use. But there are three broad problems that need to be worked through before they become commonplace.

The first is technical, involving the development of safe, long-distance flight (or “beyond visual line of sight” in industry lingo), autonomous piloting and precision flight. These rest on developing and improving communications networks and low-altitude air traffic management.

The government’s industrial strategy project, the Future Flight Challenge, includes over £100 million of public money for research and development into drones and other aerospace technologies.

But long distance drone flights across the Solent will be a great test case that builds a track record, helps generate data and boosts confidence in the technology. The government’s recently announced funding for other coronavirus-related programmes, including for drones, should help generate further innovation in the field.

Collaboration is key

The second issue is the lack of alignment. There are many drone companies with innovative ideas. In our 2018 survey of the industry, we found over 700 in the UK – and there would be many more now. There are also organisations that are trying them out, construction companies and infrastructure owners, in particular.

But in our research, and in subsequent workshops we held with innovators and potential customers in 2019, we found that people who should be talking to each other often aren’t. Government and regulation have been moving slowly, without learning lessons from industry. Technology developers aren’t involving end users, such as local councils or NHS hospitals, in their research and development. And in turn, those potential users often aren’t taking the risk of paying for pilot drone programmes.

But there is movement in the right direction. The Civil Aviation Authority’s innovation team has transformed the regulator’s approach over the past two years. It has set up an initiative to help firms with innovative ideas navigate the complex rules around safety and gain the permissions they need.

And this trial drone service will be a welcome addition, creating tangible evidence of how a drone service can benefit the NHS and forge links between the NHS, drone companies and regulators.

Public support

And then there’s the public. Does the public actually want drones? For what purposes? And operated by whom?

When we investigated this, we found strong support for the public service use of drones, and more suspicion around commercial or hobbyist use. But public opinion is still forming, which is hardly surprising as drones are not widely used and most people have not yet had to think about them.

But that will change as drones become more widespread. And the questions that will arise are not ones with right or wrong answers; they’re about values and priorities. The drone industry needs to engage with the public on this, not in a superficial way but to learn from them as much as educate them about the potential benefits.

The NHS trial won’t hurt. In fact, having a real-world case study like this might make these conversations less abstract. But the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic – during which the public has enthusiastically embraced economic and public health measures more extreme than any in living history – isn’t representative of normal times. And drones operating in city centres, rather than over the sea, are far more likely to cause controversy.

For now, however, we need to move fast. Engaging the public and finding out what they really think will need to come later, when the fierce urgency of the crisis is over and we can all take a more dispassionate view of the future.

How relaxed should you be in an online job interview?


If you have the good fortune of scoring a virtual job interview in the middle of a pandemic, the initial euphoria of potential employment may soon be replaced with anxiety over what to wear – as well as putting your home life on display for a potential employer.

And with good reason. Social scientists have found that traditional interviews – without set questions or scoring metrics – are poor predictors of job performance.

When this happens, interviewers make subjective judgments based on irrelevant information, like physical appearance and nonverbal cues. Illegal stereotypes based on gender and race may also be at play.

And unfortunately, employment litigation has not succeeded in tamping down these practices. Although many companies were successfully sued in the early 2000s for making subjective employment decisions in hiring, pay and promotion, a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 made those claims nearly impossible to bring as a class action. As a result, companies have little incentive to ensure their interview practices relate to on-the-job performance.

That left job candidates focusing much of their energy on making a good impression instead of demonstrating important job skills. And that was before the pandemic, when applicants had the benefit of a neutral conference room as a backdrop. Adding the personal details of your home environment and quarantine companions to the mix – whether human or animal – doesn’t make it better.

My advice as an employment lawyer and law professor boils down to this: You are under no obligation to introduce your prospective boss into your home life through video chat. In other words, there’s no shame in attempting to recreate that conference room environment at home.

What should you wear?


Definitely wear pants, even if you think they can’t see the lower half of your body, like the unfortunate half-dressed reporter on “Good Morning America” whose bare legs were exposed on national television. You wouldn’t want to be violating that workplace harassment policy right out of the gate.

Basically you should dress the way you would for an in-person interview, which may be varying degrees of formal depending on the industry and the role you are interviewing for. When I worked in a law firm, it was common for prospective lawyers to wear a suit to the interview, even though the office itself was business casual and people dressed however they liked when working from home.

If anyone in your social network currently works in the industry – or for the company – don’t hesitate to ask for their advice on what to wear.

How should I set up the camera’s background?

Traditional job interviews are a contest of wills between a candidate’s desire to conceal their true qualities and an employer’s efforts to suss them out, through not-so-subtle questions like, “What are your weaknesses?”

Ordinarily, you can expect a little help from the law in this regard, since companies shouldn’t be asking questions that hint at a discriminatory motive – like your religion or whether you have a disability. Some states also place restrictions on asking about criminal arrests and convictions before making a job offer.

Virtual job interviews upset the balance by revealing the contents of your home. This is fundamentally unfair in the interview concealment tug of war. It’s not like your boss, let alone a potential boss, would show up at your doorstep and demand to see your apartment – though Henry Ford used to send inspectors to do just that, in exchange for a pay raise if you passed the inspection.

You, dear prospective job applicant, are getting no such inspection bonus and therefore need not offer your interviewer a portal into your personal life.

That is why I use the “Drake method” for zoom meetings. I set up my laptop to point at a bare corner of wall, like Drake’s Hotline Bling video. That way, I reveal nothing about my questionable interior decorating and life choices.

Should I hide my children?

Certainly, you are under no obligation to voluntarily disclose your children’s presence – and your prospective employer really shouldn’t ask. Asking about children is often a proxy for gender discrimination, as mothers are disproportionately penalized for their status as parents.

For example, an experimental study by Stanford Professor Shelley Correll suggested that participants gave lower ratings – and offered less pay – to female applicants who listed their membership in the parent-teacher association on their resume. By contrast, male applicants with children were offered higher salaries in the experiment than their childless peers.

Does this mean that men should roll out their kids for an “accidental” cameo appearance to enhance their stereotypical role as family breadwinner? Not necessarily.

A study by business professor Erin Reid suggests that men preserve their privileged status in part by concealing the child care work they actually perform. In her interviews with 115 workers at a consulting firm, one man said he was able to perform his consulting duties without anyone realizing that he was also taking care of his son – and downhill skiing – five days a week.

This elaborate ruse speaks both to the discrimination that men fear for revealing their child care obligations and to the strength of the default assumption that women are the primary caregivers.

So parents, if you’re inclined to shove a device and a lollipop in the general direction of a child who might blow your cover, don’t feel guilty – you’re not the only one trying to pass for a productive employee these days.

  • Elizabeth C. Tippett is Associate Professor with the School of Law, University of Oregon, US.

What you really need to know about Zoom security


The video conferencing app Zoom gained about 2 million new users in the first two months of 2020 – and that was before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. With so many people now relying on video conferencing for contact with their friends, family and colleagues, it’s no wonder Zoom has seen a significant increase in its company stock price. But the firm has also attracted some negative press recently for issues related to its privacy and security.

I worked in the video conferencing industry for 10 years. During this time, I started a PhD on whether such systems meet the needs of organisations that have to communicate under adversarial circumstances, such as international NGOs and opposition groups under oppressive regimes. My near-finished research shows that Zoom has indeed had plenty of problems, but is far from the only platform with security and privacy issues.

A number of issues with Zoom have attracted public attention, most notably call hijacking or “Zoom-bombing”. Calls that are not set to private or password-protected can be accessed by anyone who inputs the nine- to 11-digit meeting code, and researchers have shown how valid meeting codes could easily be identified (something Zoom now says it prevents).

Zoom has also recently had to make changes to its iPhone and iPad apps to stop Facebook being able to collect data about users. And last year it was forced to fix a problem that could have allowed websites to turn on Mac users’ cameras without permission.

Another issue, recently highlighted by The Intercept, is that Zoom claims its calls can be encrypted, but doesn’t use the kind of end-to-end encryption that many people have come to understand as standard for private communication services. Messages or calls sent with end-to-end encryption are effectively locked with the receiving user’s public key that anyone can access, but can only be unlocked by the user’s private key. This system is used by messaging apps such as WhatsApp to ensure only a message’s recipient can read it – not even the app’s provider has access.

Zoom instead uses the AES-256 ECB method of encryption, which shares the key used to encrypt calls with Zoom’s servers around the globe. This potentially gives them full access to the audio and video streams, although the company has stated no user content is available to its employees or servers once encrypted.

Researchers have also found that encryption keys even up on Zoom servers based in China (where the company has development sites) even when no Chinese participants are in the call. This opens the possibility that the Chinese government, famed for its control of internet communications in the country, could eavesdrop on calls. Zoom has now started offering paying customers the ability to opt out of having data routed through China or other regions.

While Zoom has developed measures or options to at least partly address all of the issues highlighted – and said it will freeze the development of new features for 90 days so it can focus on improving security – the litany of problems that have already been identified should provoke serious thought among its users. On top of this, Zoom’s privacy policy is arguably not user-friendly. By downloading the app, you essentially grant the company permission to do with your personal data whatever they want.

The problem for anyone looking for a more private system is that many of Zoom’s competitors have their own similar security issues. For example, Microsoft’s Skype and Teams services also use forms of encryption that give the company control over the keys.


So what are the alternatives? The most secure options are arguably those that use end-to-end encryption and are built with open-source code because it can be publicly reviewed to check it doesn’t have any hidden problems.

Signal is a messaging app that falls into this category and also provides video calling from smartphones, but not desktop video calls or video conferencing with multiple parties. Jitsi is also open source and provides end-to-end encrypted video calls via a web browser, and is working on doing the same for multi-party video conferencing.

If these options don’t suit you, then there are things you can do when using Zoom or other video calling services that have potential security issues to maximise your privacy and safety.

  • Enforce encryption by default and makes sure it’s end-to-end if possible
  • Lock and password-protect meetings
  • Unauthenticated users should be held in a waiting room so the organiser can check their identity before admitting them to the call
  • Make sure a meeting host monitors the participants list and ensures no unknown participant joins
  • Be careful with meeting recordings and get consent from the participants
  • Be aware that audio-only participants calling via a regular phone dial-in option will “break” the encryption
  • Be careful with file and screen-sharing capabilities. They could accidentally disclose sensitive information or be used to spread malicious programs.

In response to the issues raised in this article, a Zoom spokesperson said:

“Zoom takes user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously. Zoom was originally developed for enterprise use, and has been confidently selected for complete deployment by a large number of institutions globally, following security reviews of our user, network and datacenter layers.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working around-the-clock to ensure that businesses, schools, and other organizations across the world can stay connected and operational. As more and new kinds of users start using Zoom during this time, Zoom has been proactively engaging to make sure they understand Zoom’s relevant policies, as well as the best ways to use the platform and protect their meetings.”

Could Covid bring in a new era of working from home?


When a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, on February 22, 2011, the capital city’s central business district was leveled — and hundreds of essential government workers suddenly found themselves working from home, scrambling to figure out how to get their jobs done without access to the office.

Some encountered technical difficulties, others had trouble managing teams. But most found the pros outweighed the cons, and agencies held on to remote work options.

“It was immediate telework,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting firm near San Diego that helps companies set up work-from-home polices. “And once it was over, they did not go back.”

Lister and other experts wonder if Covid-19 will have a similar, but wider-ranging, impact. So do the millions of people now working from home — pecking away on laptops at kitchen tables, logging onto online servers, and pushing their kids and pets out of view during Web meetings.

Lister’s (virtual) talks with companies are jam-packed, she says, with some attracting more than 1,500 people in recent weeks. Before Covid, it was “unheard of” to get even 300 attendees at a typical seminar, she says.

But the chaotic nature of the Covid-19 work-from-home experience might make it hard for scholars to assess how well it’s actually working for companies and workers — or predict its likelihood to remain a big factor in workplaces moving forward.

“There’s so much noise right now,” says Bradford Bell, an organizational psychologist at Cornell University who has studied companies’ transitions to permitting mobile work. “How would you evaluate the effectiveness?”

Assessing and understanding the merits and pitfalls of remote work is a problem that’s persisted for decades. Overall, the practice has expanded, if slowly. A 2016 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that the percentage of American companies that offered telecommuting benefits had increased from 20 percent to 60 percent over the preceding 20 years. But that same year, a Gallup Poll reported that less than half of US workers spent any amount of time working remotely.

More recently, Gallup research revealed that the percentage of American workers who had worked from home doubled in the weeks between mid-March and early April 2020, to more than 60 percent. Three-fifths of people working from home said they’d like to keep doing so once the crisis is over.

Historically, advocates touted remote work as a perk companies could offer to attract and retain talented employees, as a strategy to save money on real estate, or as a preparedness measure to assure things keep chugging along during emergencies. But even as technology advances like computing and broadband access made the mechanics of working from home easier, many businesses remained skeptical of the practice — clinging to what’s familiar, and a belief that unmonitored employees won’t get anything done.

Famously, Yahoo abolished its work-from-home policy in 2013, arguing that keeping workers in the office promoted better collaboration and innovation. Retailer Best Buy followed suit a week later. More recently, the Trump Administration has rolled back telework privileges for federal workers. Even today, when social distancing has made going to the office impossible, some observers have focused on the difficult aspects of working from home: isolation, ergonomics, losing a routine.

“Why have organizations resisted? Often, it’s a simple answer: It’s how they’ve always done things,” says organizational psychologist Frederick Morgeson, of Michigan State University, editor of the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior.

“Managers don’t trust their employees,” Lister says. “They’re afraid that if they’re untethered, they’ll be out on the golf course or going to a movie or sitting on the sofa eating bonbons.”

The research reflects a more nuanced reality. Remote work is seldom all or nothing; many people work at home only some of the time. It can increase productivity. A 2007 meta-analysis in the Journal of Applied Psychology looked at 46 studies of telecommuting involving 12,883 employees. It found that remote work had positive effects on work-family balance, job satisfaction and performance — but that “high-intensity telecommuting” of more than 2.5 days per week harmed relationships with coworkers.

A 2017 look at research on alternative work arrangements, including remote work, in the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior identified similar benefits. It also documented challenges for remote workers, including feeling lonely, isolated or not respected by colleagues; an increase in work-family conflict due to longer hours and blurred boundaries; and, in some cases, a tendency among workers who are encouraged to maintain work-life boundaries to “be less likely to extend themselves in crunch times, possibly increasing the workload of non-telecommuting coworkers.”

Fast forward to today, and Covid-19 has created a vast, if imperfect, natural experiment for scholars to further study remote work, on a mass scale. Gallup is doing its new polling; Lister’s firm, Global Workplace Analytics, is conducting an online survey aimed at helping employees develop better policies for telecommuting looking ahead. Bell has been talking with companies affiliated with the program he directs at Cornell, the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, to find out what kind of data they’re now gathering about remote work. He hopes to analyze it later on, once conditions normalize.

Ravi Gajendran, an organizational psychologist at Florida International University who coauthored the 2007 review in the Journal of Applied Psychology, says that he is “scrambling to find ways to collect data.” His past work has examined the importance of employee autonomy in the most successful telework arrangements (it’s crucial), and the interplay between job type and remote working success (the more complex the task, the bigger the performance boost telecommuting provides).

Organizational psychologists Kristen Shockley of the University of Georgia and Tammy Allen of the University of South Florida are heading up one of the first academic efforts to learn from the virus response. With funding from a rapid response grant from the National Science Foundation, the pair will survey companies between late April and early June to better understand what factors predict a successful transition to remote work.

Most research has compared telecommuters with non-telecommuters, Shockley says, but she and Allen want to look at how experiences vary within fully mobile populations (such as workplaces in the age of Covid-19). Is the nature of the organization what matters most, or the type of job the worker is doing? Does the technology a company employs make a difference — e-chat, versus phone, versus videoconferencing via Zoom? (Shockley, who is teaching from home with a young child in tow, finds the latter “depleting” because, she hypothesizes, it requires face-to-face interaction without the usual full array of social cues.)

“We don’t have any research out there at all about the adjustment to remote work, I think because most people who have been doing it wanted to,” Shockley says. “It’s a different situation than being forced to do it.” When there isn’t personal motivation driving the decision to work away from the office, who has an easier time with it, and why?

After the dust has settled, Gajendran believes the Covid-19 experience will swing the pendulum back toward companies allowing more remote work — on a limited basis, at the very least.

“This is going to change the conversation,” he says. “You’ll have a larger swath of employees who are going to say, ‘We did it then, we can do it again.’ … And managers are going to find it harder to say no.”

But he and others caution that the ultimate success of remote work in the future will depend on decisions that companies and managers won’t make until after the crisis has abated — when they can be far more deliberate about their practices.

“Typically, a company will take six months to a year to roll out a program like this,” taking special care to choose the right technology and the right security and the right HR policies and management practices, Lister says. “Here, people are thrown into the deep end of the work-at-home pool.”

For remote work to really take off, Gajendran adds, businesses are going to have to reinvent and recommit to those kinds of systems, no matter what comes of the strange work conditions created by Covid-19.

“Telecommuting is like any work arrangement or any work practice,” he says. “If the ecology is set up right, the practice can be successful.”

  • Eryn Brown is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. This article originally appeared in Knowable Magazine.

How to avoid Internet congestion during lockdown


The current health crisis has led to a rise in the use of digital services. Telework, along with school closures and the implementation of distance learning solutions (CNED, MOOCs, online learning platforms such as Moodle for example), will put additional strain on these infrastructures since all of these activities are carried out within the network. This raises concerns about overloads during the lockdown period. Across the Internet, however, DNS server loads have not shown a massive increase in traffic, therefore demonstrating that Internet use remains under control.

The Internet is a network that is designed to handle the load. However, telework and distance learning will create an unprecedented load. Simple measures must therefore be taken to limit network load and make better use of the Internet. Of course, these rules can be adapted depending on the tools you have at your disposal.

How do telecommunications networks work?

The Internet network functions by sending packets between machines that are connected to it. An often-used analogy is that of the information highway. In this analogy, the information exchanged between machines of all kinds (computers, telephones and personal assistants, to name just a few) is divided into packets (small and large vehicles). Each packet travels through the network between a source and a destination. All current networks operate according to this principle: Internet, wireless (wi-fi) and mobile (3G, 4G) networks etc.

The network must provide two important properties: reliability and communication speed.

Reliability ensures accurate communication between the source and the destination, meaning that information from the source is transmitted accurately to the destination. Should there be transmission errors, they are detected and the data is retransmitted. If there are too many errors, communication is interrupted. An example of this type of communication is e-mail. The recipient must receive exactly what the sender has sent. Long packets are preferred for this type of communication in order to minimize communication errors and maximise the quantity of data transmitted.

Communication speed makes real-time communication possible. As such, the packets must all travel across the network as quickly as possible, and their crossing time must be roughly constant. This is true for voice networks (3G, 4G) and television. Should a packet be lost, its absence may be imperceptible. This applies to videos or sound, for example, since our brain compensates for the loss. In this case, it is better to lose a packet from time to time – this leads to communication of lower quality, but they remain usable in most cases.

Congestion problems

The network has a large overall capacity but it is limited for each of its components. When there is very high demand, certain components can become congested (routers, links and servers). In such cases, the two properties (reliability and speed) can break down.

For communications that require reliability (web, e-mail), the network uses the TCP protocol (TCP from the expression “TCP/IP”). This protocol introduces a session mechanism, which is implemented to ensure reliability. When a packet is detected as lost by its source, it is retransmitted until the destination indicates that it has arrived. This retransmission of packets exacerbates network congestion, and what was a temporary slowdown turns into a bottleneck. To put it simply, the more congested the network, the more the sessions resend packets. Such congestion is a well-known phenomenon during the “Internet rush hour” after work.

If the source considers that a communication has been subject too many errors, it will close the “session.” When this occurs, a great quantity of data may be lost, since the source and the destination no longer know much about the other’s current state. The congestion therefore causes a wastage of capacity, even once it is over.

For communications that require speed (video, voice), the network instead uses the UDP protocol. Unfortunately, routers are often configured to reject this kind of traffic in the event of a temporary overload. This makes it possible to prioritize traffic using sessions (TCP, email, web). Losing a few packets in a video or voice communication is not a problem, but losing a significant amount can greatly affect the quality of the communication. Since the source and destination exchange only limited information about problems encountered, they may have the impression that they are communicating when this is not actually the case.

The following proposals aim to limit network load and congestion, in order to avoid a situation in which packets start to get lost. It should be noted that the user may be explicitly informed about this loss of packets, but this is not always the case. It may be observed following delays or a deterioration of communication quality.

What sort of communications should be prioritized in the professional sphere? Professional use must prioritise connection time for exchanging e-mails or synchronising files. But the majority of work should be carried out without being connected to the network, since for a great number of activities, there is no need to be connected.

The most crucial and probably most frequently used tool is e-mail. The main consequence of the network load may be the time it takes to send and transmit messages. The following best practices will allow you to send shorter, less bulky messages, and therefore make e-mail use more fluid:

  • Choose thick clients (Outlook, Thunderbird for example) rather than web-based clients (Outlook Web Access, Zimbra, Gmail for example) since using e-mail in a browser increases data exchange. Moreover, using a thick client means that you do not always have to be connected to the network to send and receive e-mails.
  • When responding to e-mail, delete nonessential content, including attachments and signatures.
  • Delete or simplify signatures, especially those that include icons and social media images.
  • Send shorter messages than usual, giving preference to plain text.
  • Do not add attachments or images that are not essential, and opt for exchanging attachments by shared disks or other services.
  • When it comes to file sharing, VPNs (for virtual private networks) and cloud computing are the two main solutions. Corporate VPNs will likely be the preferred way to connect to company systems. As noted above, they should only be activated when needed, or potentially on a regular basis, but long sessions should be avoided as they may lead to network congestion.

Most shared disks can also be synchronized locally in order to work remotely. Synchronization is periodic and makes it possible to work offline, for example on office documents.

Don’t overload the network

Social media will undoubtedly be under great strain. Guidelines similar to those for e-mail should be followed and photos, videos, animated GIFs and other fun but bulky content should only be sent on a limited basis.

Certain messages may be rejected by the network. Except in exceptional circumstances, you should wait for the load to ease before trying again.

Advertising represents a significant portion of web content and congests the network without benefits for the user. Most browsers can incorporate extensions (privacy badger) to delete such content automatically. Some browsers, such as Brave for example, also offer this feature. In general, the use of these tools does not have an impact on important websites such as government websites.

Television and on-demand video services also place great strain on the network. When it comes to video, it is preferable to use TNT (terrestrial network) instead of boxes, which use the Internet. The use of VoD services should be limited, especially during the day, so as to give priority to educational and work applications. And a number of video services have limited their broadcast quality, which significantly reduces bandwidth consumption.

Cybercrime and security

The current crisis will unfortunately be used as an attack tool. Messages about coronavirus must be handled with caution. Such messages must be read carefully and care must be taken with regard to links they may contain if they do not lead to government websites. Attachments should not be opened. The Hoaxbuster website and the Décodeurs application by the Le Monde newspaper can be used to verify whether information is reliable.

At this time in which online meeting systems are extensively used, attention must be given to personal data protection.

The website of ARCEP (France’s regulator for telecom operators) provides guidelines for making the best use of the network. To best protect yourself from attacks, the rules for IT security established by the French cybersecurity agency ANSSI are more important than ever.

  • Hervé Debar is professor and head of the Networks and Telecommunication Services department  of Telecom SudParis, France. Additional reporting by Gaël Thomas, Gregory Blanc and Olivier Levillain. This article first appeared on TheConversation.

Now is the time to close the digital divide


I’ve always believed that universal broadband internet access is a human right – just as important as food, shelter and water – that when fulfilled, enables individuals to help themselves succeed in the information economy. As the COVID-19 pandemic moves us deeper into a digital world, accessing education, establishing and maintaining a livelihood, and obtaining government and other critical services are being forced online.

The last thing we want to do during this health crisis and transformation is widen the digital divide and leave people behind when they are already struggling. Yet, we are at risk of doing just that as an estimated 3.7 billion people (approximately half the world’s population) remain unconnected today.

The consequences of this shortfall have never been more evident than during the COVID-19 crisis. Internet access has become increasingly vital to our health, safety, and economic and societal survival. As cities and countries across the globe ask their citizens to stay at home, billions of us are fortunate enough to be able to heavily rely on the internet to fill the gaps in our work and life.

Whether it is work, accessing healthcare services, or seeing our friends, so much of society has been impacted. Perhaps most starkly, school closures have impacted over 1.5 billion students in 188 countries, forcing many into distance learning. Yet, for millions of those students, their education has stopped because they aren’t connected to the internet.

About 14% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have internet access. Most of those are in households that make less than $50,000 a year, and many live in rural areas. Among those who do have access, not all have a quality broadband connection. Inevitably, these circumstances have left many families at an immense disadvantage in the absolute toughest of times.

In order to rectify this, there are three primary barriers we need to remove. A large portion of our global population lacks access to the internet, cannot afford the options available, or does not have the information and communication technology (ICT) skills to leverage it.


The first challenge is to expand broadband access to all. As the focus of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9c, internet access is considered a basic necessity for human and economic development in both developed and developing countries. While financing for infrastructure has increased in developing countries and impressive progress has been made in mobile connectivity, digital divides still exist across all regions and countries. About 35% of the population in developing countries has internet access versus about 80% in advanced economies. Regardless of country, there is a disproportionate impact on rural communities and the poor. Residents of rural areas tend to be the ones who suffer the consequences of the divide – becoming digitally invisible in the information economy. This is because quality broadband infrastructure can be both expensive and technically challenging to establish. The good news is, as of 2019, almost all people around the world now live within range of a mobile network signal, with 90% living within range of a 3G-quality or higher network. This expansion of the mobile network, however, is growing more rapidly than the percentage of the population using the network, signifying there are additional barriers to overcome.

Potential solution: Set up additional access points (with a focus on rural and poor communities) to increase WiFi and broadband internet access.


Access means nothing if you cannot afford your bill. The United Nations target for affordable internet is 2% of monthly income for one gigabyte of data, an amount deemed to allow basic internet access. However, most individuals who make up the offline population live in poverty and therefore do not have the funds to pay a service provider, let alone buy a computer or device. In developed countries, like the U.S., public utilities such as electricity, gas, water and telephone services are often subsidized for those who can’t afford it. Broadband internet service should be treated similarly — as a public utility that everyone deserves as a basic human right. In Africa, for example, only the wealthiest 20% of South Africans can afford basic internet access. For the poorest 60% of South Africans, basic access costs between 6% and 21% of their monthly earnings. In Mozambique, one of the poorest nations in the world, the internet is unaffordable for almost everyone.

Fortunately, there are extensive bodies of work already underway focused on removing this barrier, with some telecom companies and internet service providers extending service and offering free sign-ups. From here, we should continue to leverage the power of public-private partnerships to expand these offers and make them more permanent so that everyone – regardless of their income or postal code – is connected to high-speed internet for the long term.

Potential solution: Offer broadband internet as an affordable, government provided public utility for those otherwise unable to afford it.

Digital Literacy

Around the world, internet use is tightly linked to education, and many people who are unconnected lack the ability to use digital devices, communication applications, and networks to access and manage information. “Not knowing how” to use the internet continues to be a significant barrier to digital inclusion. Approximately 23% of adults internationally are not digitally literate (with women four times less likely than men to be digitally literate) which means that even if internet is affordable, many won’t be able to benefit from it. Today, nearly every job or means to a livelihood requires digital communication at some point, so equipping people with the skills to effectively and responsibly find, evaluate, communicate, and share online content is key to their futures.

Understanding computer fundamentals, online safety, technology applications, and computational thinking and coding, among others, are essential skills that should be introduced as early as possible and reinforced at the appropriate cognitive stages and grade levels. We need to continue to invest in digital adoption and literacy globally, ensuring that when affordable service is provided, both males and females are inspired and empowered to use technology to help themselves thrive in the information economy.

Potential solution: Embed digital literacy skills in everyday curriculum and instruction across all education levels, beginning in primary school.

I believe, in the wake of COVID-19, we have “crossed the Rubicon” – there is no turning back. An internet that only serves a portion of the world’s population during a crisis only reinforces the disadvantages of the digital divide and constrains our ability to create a more sustainable, inclusive future for everyone. We must remove these barriers now or face a world where students are unable to acquire the skills needed to join the workforce; individuals are unable to obtain or maintain jobs; seniors or those with disabilities are unable to get remote healthcare support; and small businesses are unable to expand their services to meet the changes in customer needs.

It’s not enough to say that broadband is a human right; we must push for policies that ensure all stakeholders treat it as one. Many governments, companies, and nonprofits are already taking valuable steps to help bridge the digital divide. However, we must continue to push all stakeholders to move beyond ‘business as usual’ and work across sectors and geographies on collaborative, long-term approaches that connect everyone for the long term. We have a moral and economic obligation to do so, so that no one is left behind…especially in the most challenging of times.

  • Tae Yoo is Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Cisco.

Tracking Covid could open a digital Pandora’s Box


The Covid-19 pandemic has brought new big data-driven practices of infectious disease surveillance to the forefront of efforts to track cases in real-time. As infections have continued to spread across the globe, governments have increasingly sought to capitalize on the volume, variety and velocity of the Big Data era, and to partner with Big Tech corporations in order to accelerate the surveillance of infected populations.

China has led the global charge in harnessing the digital turn of infectious disease surveillance practices in order to monitor the movement of its citizens, to track suspected infections in real-time, and in the unprecedented quarantining of tens of millions of citizens at critical phases of the pandemic.

China’s employment of big data-driven tactics of population surveillance is without parallel in this pandemic: ranging from the accessing and monitoring of citizens’ use of social media and communication apps, to the use of drone technology to enforce population quarantine, to the application of facial recognition technology to identify suspected infected individuals.

Most recently, Hanwang Technology Co. (Hanvon), China’s leading firm specializing in recognition technology, whose client-base includes the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, announced that it had developed the first facial recognition technology which made it possible to successfully identify persons even when they are wearing facemasks.

Elsewhere, states have also opted-in to the intensifying union of ‘Big Data and Big Tech’ with public health security measures. Taiwan, for example has sought to control its national rate of infections through implementing an ‘electric fence‘ programme which uses mobile phone location-tracking to ensure quarantined persons remain in their home. Similar measures aimed at limiting population movements by digital mediums have also been implemented in Singapore.

The Russian government has also intensified its digital surveillance activities by operationalizing thousands of security cameras in urban centers enabled with facial recognition technology. In recent weeks, Israel announced it would be commencing the tracking of mobile phones to identify cases of Covid-19 in the country, using technology and software originally developed for counter-terrorism purposes.

Expanding tech-focused responses to this global pandemic have also emerged in the UK. In late March, it was revealed that the NHS would be partnering with a number of Big Tech corporations, most notably Google, Amazon, and data-processing firm Palantir to develop a shared data platform to assist in Covid-19 surveillance. Understandably, this announcement has sparked widespread unease across the UK regarding the roles and motivations of these Big Tech actors, and their increased stakes in informing and assisting responses to global public health emergencies.

In recent UK memory, Google is perhaps most infamously known for the breach of data laws and privacy which occurred in the contexts of a partnership between Google DeepMind and the Royal Free London Trust, which involved the transfer of identifiable patient records across the entire Trust, without explicit consent, for the purpose of developing a clinical alert app for acute kidney injury. Of equal concern, until its partnership with the NHS, Palantir was perhaps most widely known as a data-processing firm which has continued to supply American immigration authorities with technology and analytics used for the separation of families and deportation of migrants.

In seeking to alleviate public concerns centering on data privacy, as well as the role of these for-profit corporations in the UK’s ongoing response to Covid-19, the NHS and UK government have continued to emphasize that tech corporations involved in the response to Covid-19 do not control the data, nor are these corporations permitted to use confidential patient data for research or commercial purposes.

On one hand, recent research investigating these transformations has illustrated the supplemental potential of digital disease tracking in highlighting how new data sources and technological advancements can aid in identifying and responding to outbreaks. On the other hand, these unparalleled shifts in surveillance operations also underscore the intensifying fusion of Big Tech corporations and state surveillance activities within global health security frameworks.

The political challenges and implications posed by these global transformations are, like the pandemic, unprecedented. Moreover, the rapid rise of these data-driven surveillance operations, enabled largely by tech corporations and proliferating in the forms of public-private partnerships, tracking apps, GPS devices, drones, and facial recognition technologies has unfolded amid an intensified debate of trade-offs between collective security and individual autonomy in all regions affected by the pandemic.

Amid a shared sense of global emergency, innovation appears to have outpaced regulation in accounting for these expanding surveillance capacities.

Growing unease with the increasing stake held by Big Tech in assisting governments to regulate public emergencies, and concerns surrounding corporate and political interests converge in the contexts of this current global pandemic. Highly sensitive and confidential patient data held by organizations including the NHS is valued in the billions, yet the transfer of millions of records by the Royal Free to Google’s DeepMind in 2015 occurred without public debate or consultation with relevant public bodies.

Five years after this infamous data and privacy breach, Google has once again partnered with the NHS to assist with the development of a datastore as part of the NHS’s larger project with tech corporations to track and respond to Covid-19.

Yet, once more, concerned sources have drawn attention to the speed at which patient data is now being accumulated and processed by these mediums to track Covid-19, with apparent insufficient regard for privacy, ethics or data protection.

Beyond this, public scrutiny must also be directed to consider the potential ‘after-life’ of these technologies and new logics of big data-driven surveillance which could linger on, or be re-purposed after the pandemic has subsided.

In some countries, enhanced digital surveillance capacities have been developed and launched in tandem with the arrival and escalation of cases of infections, while in other states, particularly with authoritarian governance structures, these accelerated health surveillance practices appear now as dual-use technologies, which have been hastily drafted into outbreak responses.

Subsequently, these technologies cannot only trace and identify the movement of viruses, but also the movement of any surveyed population, whether during health emergencies or otherwise.

In states with stronger governance culture and institutional legitimacy, including the UK, the task at hand then for researchers, academic networks, civil society and communities will be to continually hold governments to full account on the partnerships they forge with for-profit tech corporations and security firms during states of emergency.
Within these citizen-led evaluations, critical further explanations must include how and what sources of data are being collected and used, and for what purposes, and how will such surveillance operations be securely suspended, dissembled, and de-escalated following the cessation of epidemics and pandemics.

In some cases, the basic question of whether such partnerships and expanded surveillance capacities should be even considered must also be asserted.

Lastly, it is critical to recall how public health emergencies are often rooted and proliferate from endemic economic, environmental, historic, social and political realities, far divorced from the tech corporations, data-warehouses and algorithms which now guide and inform the responses to emergent epidemics and pandemics.

As findings from previous public health emergencies demonstrate, accelerated disease surveillance practices and the accrual of ever more personal data during outbreaks can and will fail to deliver on promises of health security and outbreak control if these new surveillance operations are not paired with continued investments with on-the-ground infrastructures, including robust healthcare systems, secure supplies of medical resources, and public trust in institutions, all of which are critical in addressing any public health risk.

It has been claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic represents a watershed moment for global health systems; a point of no return, and a needed opportunity to re-consider future directions of governance and security practices.

As more and more state governments roll out increasingly opaque and digitized operations in the era of Big Data, digital disease surveillance practices and the ‘creep’ of tech corporations must continue to be included and actively scrutinized in assessments, evaluations and critiques of responses to pandemics, during and after Covid-19.

In charting a path forward for global health researchers and communities, it must be underscored that regulation of these practices, technologies and actors cannot be merely understood as an endpoint or a final destination at which we will at some point arrive at and conclude.

Rather, regulation must take the form of a continued and evolving state of vigilance, scrutiny, education, cooperation, and oversight. Orientated towards the long term, the addressing of these highlighted political challenges, like the pandemic itself, will be a marathon, not a sprint.

Five ways to protect connectivity during Covid-19


COVID-19 has dealt a shock to our world. Large swathes of the global population are living under some restrictions and enforced distancing. We are learning to live differently – to learn, socialize, shop, worship and collaborate differently. And we are doing all of this online.

The role of digital connectivity in our lives has grown over recent years, but never have we been so acutely aware of how critically we depend on it. From getting the latest information and health guidance, to supporting health services, adapting supply chains and sourcing equipment from across the globe – we depend on the ability to connect across distance.

However, we are also learning that we cannot take this connectivity for granted. Critical challenges require immediate action to ensure operational continuity and to ensure availability to the people who need it as the COVID19 wave continues across the globe.

The increased demands on our global networks have been dramatic. The use of both video-calling and streamed entertainment services have surged – Zoom has reported a 20-times growth in daily participants. Voice calls in some countries have tripled, and the use of communications apps have doubled.

The sudden shift to everyone living their lives online has led to unprecedented congestion and strain on critical ICT infrastructure. We also see challenges emerging with access and affordability across many countries.

Addressing global internet inequalities

Beyond the immediate COVID-19 response, there is a deeper and more lasting lesson. While it is true that many are only just realizing how much we depend on digital connectivity – it is only true for those who are connected to the internet. Currently, this stands at 53% of the world’s population. Many countries are now starting to face their COVID-19 wave without the luxury of the connected information systems that most if not all readers of this article take for granted.

Never before will the gap between those who are connected and those who are not be so dramatically – and tragically – felt. This tragedy may prove to play out hardest amongst the 47% of the world’s population that are not connected and do not have access to basic information and opportunities.

How to increase connectivity

We urgently need rapid private-public collaboration to make sure that we can connect the people who need to be connected. To support this, the World Bank, ITU, GSMA and World Economic Forum have developed an accelerated collaboration to identify immediate priorities for private-public collaboration that can be taken by governments in partnership with the private sector today.

These five priorities are being shared globally, will form the basis of a joint meeting between industry, ICT and finance ministers in April and will catalyse sustained collaboration between the public and private sectors to increase internet access beyond the current crisis.

1. Promote network resilience

Governments should ensure the continuity of the digital industry supply chain by streamlining customs and logistical processes and classifying network equipment as essential infrastructure. . They should also facilitate emergency access to additional spectrum resources as necessary during the crisis, expedite approvals of new sites and installations and allow voluntary infrastructure sharing and dark fiber provisioning when necessary.

For example, countries including the US, Ireland, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Panama, Brazil and South Africa have provided spectrum relief for operators to provide additional network coverage and capacity.

2. Ensure access to digital services

Governments must promote the smart and responsible use of network resources by the general public during times of crisis without generating systemic distortions. They can do this by authorizing the distribution and purchase of pre-paid mobile services in essential commercial premises for the 5.7 billion customers lacking access to such facilities.

For example, Chile has worked on a “solidarity plan” for affordable internet access in partnership with the private sector. Egypt has offered free SIM cards to students and has committed to bear the costs of providing a 20% increase in all subscribers’ monthly downloads. And Thailand has designed a public assistance scheme for mobile users so that they can register for 10 free gigabytes of data usage.

3. Support compliance while providing connectivity

Key to preventing the spread of coronavirus is supporting the pre-purchase of broadband internet access for government officials and other targeted groups under home-based work to ensure operational continuity of government services as well as support operators’ finances at a time of crisis. For example, many countries have supported teleworking for public servants, including Nigeria.

4. Leverage e-health, telemedicine and big data

Governments can help leverage telemedicine, digital services and apps to foster e-health and support healthcare systems, especially in areas in need of remote medical care. They can ensure a close dialogue between national authorities and operators on the use of mobile data insights to monitor the outbreak while adhering to strict, relevant privacy guidelines.

For example, Pakistan has worked with mobile operators to deliver SMSs to subscribers containing COVID-19 related health information, and Cote d’Ivoire has worked with mobile operators to develop a public health information resource offered via websites and an app.

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US established a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program that aims to help healthcare providers purchase telecom, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. The FCC also established the Connected Care Pilot Program to provide up to $100 million of support from the existing Universal Service Fund (USF) to help defray health care providers’ costs of providing connected care services and to help assess how the fund can be used in the long-term to support telehealth.

5. Ensure institutional frameworks are fit for purpose

Governments must also support information communication technology (ICT) and telecom ministers to develop emergency action plans and address relevant bottlenecks preventing private sector investment and universal access.

Internet for all in the post-COVID-19 world

Beyond pandemic response, most people now believe that we will exit this crisis with changed expectations, behaviours and norms. We will get back to work, rebuild and create new businesses. We will still face major existential challenges in the form of climate change and related sustainability issues. Knowing in practice what large global disruptions look like, we will take up sustainability challenges with fresh fervour – with big data and analytics playing a critical role in our science-based efforts and digital platforms playing a critical role in distribution collaboration and innovation.

Across all our goals – as individuals and as humans collectively – we will all rely on digital even more in our lives.

Unless we rapidly tackle the challenge to bring high-quality universal internet access to all we will not be able to build inclusive economies. We will not be able to bring our full resources to bear to tackle future pandemics or climate change. And we will not be able to give young people globally access to the wealth of human knowledge so that they can learn, innovate and lead in the future.

We must act urgently to ensure that we keep our global connective lifeblood of information flowing to tackle our current crisis. But we must also make sure that we sustain that urgency to extend access to all.

  • Derek O’Halloran is Head of the Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation with the World Economic Forum (WEF). This article was first published on the WEF’s Agenda news channel.