In this space ordinarily reserved for analysis and commentary on IT topics, every now and again, there comes a news event that has such an impact, that it seems inappropriate not to make mention of it regardless of any link or lack thereof to IT. That's because in these cases, what links us as readers and editors to the story is our humanity.
In this space ordinarily reserved for analysis and commentary on IT topics, every now and again, there comes a news event that has such an impact, that it seems inappropriate not to make mention of it regardless of any link or lack thereof to IT. That's because in these cases, what links us as readers and editors to the story is our humanity.Thursday was such a day. Once again we were shocked awake by news of another hideous attack on ordinary citizens going about the business of going to work. Last time the venue was a train in Spain, this morning it was the London Underground and a lone bus. At deadline last night, the toll was least 37 people killed and another 700 wounded. Horrific, and yet miraculous that more people had not died.
If the attackers are religious fanatics, than surely they have lost sight of the meaning of God. If the attackers had hoped to win over or scare the British public to their cause, they should head back to their history books, and for starters, catch up on Sir Winston Churchill:
"One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half."
Winnie was a tough old guy, but he reflected the stoicism and resolve of the British public when under attack. Among his most famous quotes, was this one, which to me takes on an added meaning today: "We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire...Give us the tools and we will finish the job."
Of course, in many parts of the world, bombings, maiming and shoot outs in, around and directly targeted at civilians is a daily or close to it occurrence. They may well be looking at the West's anguish today with more than just a little cynicism. And that may be where IT can make a difference.
The tools needed today to "finish" any job are more often then not linked to high tech. Certainly information technology has evolved into a strategic player in modern warfare, providing intelligence, accuracy and protection to the combatants. But communication and networking advances also make it possible for civilians to better inform themselves, gather and disseminate information and most importantly, reach out across geographic, political and cultural barriers to lend a hand, an ear, some aid and understanding.
Every attack or natural disaster these days is followed by stories of how well the messaging infrastructure held up and how many people turned to the web to find the assistance they needed. The bloggers today are performing the function of electronic ham radio operators, providing fresh news reports, ferrying messages, and more and more frequently, organizing aid and follow up programs.
It's the use of IT to cut past the middle men and bring ordinary people together, via follow up programs and the open dialogue we so desperately need as a planet that we really should be watching and encouraging. Mutual respect and understanding takes time to build, and we would be foolish not to use the tools on hand that can get that job done. This is one task about which we must not fail or falter. Our future peace depends on it.