Yesterday President Obama spoke about preparing for another potential outbreak of the H1N1 flu this fall H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit, a follow up to the workshop Eric attended two weeks ago at NIH about information sharing around swine flu. Obama said that the government is working to avert a crisis in two ways – through good communication and vaccinations. The full text of Obama’s speech is here, and below is a look at the main points he emphasized.
With the second wave of H1N1 likely to hit and peak before most people can be immunized, communications are even more important. Using decentralized communications tool to prepare for a possible H1N1 pandemic were a big emphasis at the meeting two weeks ago, with Chris Allen suggesting some brilliant ideas on creating effective, replicable, open source tools that can go on to be used wherever they’re needed. The Health and Human Services agency is already testing out decentralized communications efforts, such as with it’s YouTube contest to create PSAs about swine flu.
But equally important are the tools that are needed to collect information on the flu, share it around the world, and help countries, states, counties, and businesses coordinate what the heck to do to survive. Chris Allen was right on in saying that using open source software – whether that’s Drupal or another platform – is the best way to do this.
Think about what could be done with tools that are open source and hosted on a features server, making them easy to grab, turn on, and start using. One organization could customize an online tool so it has all the necessary features a local government needs to monitor and communicate about a flu outbreak – aggregation of local services and flu related news, a map to show local flu cases, sms alerts for breaking news, a blog to communicate with local officials, doctors, and other service providers, a workspace to coordinate any communications or other efforts, and so on. If the tool is open source and its put on a features server, then any other local government could grab it and use it with their own local information at a much lower cost both in time and money. The same could be built with a public website to communicate directly with the public, giving local governments tools to communicate about school closings, the status of public services, and other very local news items that people will need to know about.
The efficiency possible in taking an approach like this is exciting.