Tech: Let’s follow and support, but not lead.


Yesterday I wrote about the need for HRTECH vendors (and users) to be cautious about building and deploying COVID-19 related applications. Healthcare tech is hard, and you can’t really learn it over a weekend. I should probably have been a bit more blunt.

One of sites that I cited was the Future of Privacy forum. The CEO, Jules Polonetsky wrote an excellent post about how tech can actually help. It was in response to an article in Wired, which argued that Silicon valley can save the day….


Follow the guidance of non-tech experts by supporting epidemiologists, public health experts and safety experts in every way they need, consistent with civil liberties. Help those leaders communicate to the public and with each other, design what they need.

Social media experts should not make decisions about how to personalize public health communication. Leading platforms should donate the funding and lend their experts to help public health leaders use their platform most effectively, honestly sharing the data quality issues and concerns about bias and equity.

I’d also suggest you have a listen to this podcast. The team behind are Ireland’s leading data and data ethics boffins.

But if you prefer things in cartoon form, this totally nails it. Thanks Andrew Blum.


Sean McDonald @seanmmcdonald provides a solid list of what tech industry is doing/can do that would be valuable.

  • Support their employees and contractors with healthcare, flexibility, and stability
  • Keep servers up/surge infrastructure capacity and investments
  • Pay taxes
  • Repurpose manufacturing to PPE
  • Loan/ dedicate server infrastructure to researchers focused on biomedical (as opposed to social control) research
  • Don’t change features in products responders likely already use
  • Pledge not to enforce IP restrictions on COVID-relevant patents
  • Offer deferred payment
  • Place all data collected through/during COVID programming in an independent, publicly governed trust (I’d like to learn more about this)
  • Offer free, open testing of algorithmic and data product models – yours and others
  • Suspend all arbitration requirements (not sure what he means here)
  • Build for unstable infrastructures

Tech, we need to play a supporting role here, not grab the controls. We haven’t solved software viruses, so let’s not be so arrogant to think that we can just jump in solve this one. Less Batman, more Robin.

I was looking for an example of Supporting, and I saw this from the Atlassian CEO a few minutes ago. Collaboration with government, and a specialist health communications expert firm ( providing specific expertise. Well done Aussie Government, Atlassian and

I need to learn more about, they are spin out from a South African NGO, Praekelt.