May 1, 2020

COVID-19: Resources

Helping survivors become heroes
The world is searching for ways to fight COVID-19, leading to a surge of research efforts to create effective therapies. Thankfully, as the human immune system learns to fight off the disease and people recover, we see some very promising ways that people’s naturally produced antibodies, which are present in convalescent plasma, can be used as treatment for others. The use of convalescent plasma is a technique dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and was effective more recently during the SARS outbreak. Today, there is mounting clinical evidence that plasma collected from those who have recovered from COVID-19 can be used to treat ill COVID-19 patients.

Celebrating 2020 Graduates: Preserving traditions with virtual graduations
Around the world, millions of people are struggling with this question—especially education administrators, students, and their loved ones. At this time of year, there are thousands of ceremonies and traditions for all levels of education that typically bring large groups together. The current situation has made it unwise for groups to gather in the usual way, so educational institutions are working to find alternative ways to mark their commencements. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make.

Distance learning with Office 365: Guidance for parents and guardians
Your student’s learning can happen anywhere with Office 365 online. Get to know our tools made to support learners of all ages and abilities, and see how your child’s core subjects and class discussions can happen with support from Microsoft Education.

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Washington Post Here are the innovations we need to reopen the economy
It’s entirely understandable that the national conversation has turned to a single question: “When can we get back to normal?” The shutdown has caused immeasurable pain in jobs lost, people isolated and worsening inequity. People are ready to get going again. Unfortunately, although we have the will, we don’t have the way — not yet. Before the United States and other countries can return to business and life as usual, we will need some innovative new tools that help us detect, treat and prevent covid-19.

NBC Virus-notifying smartphone apps are gaining momentum around the world
When tech experts proposed building smartphone apps to try to track the spread of the coronavirus, there was some skepticism: Would people who live in privacy-focused democracies really want to download these apps?

CNET Google sibling Verily expands COVID-19 website to New York, Virginia, more
Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent Alphabet, on Monday said it’s working with Rite Aid to open up its coronavirus screening website for the first time beyond California, expanding to eight new states. The website, which launched last month, allows people to take a screener survey to see if they should go to testing stations for COVID-19.

CNN The coronavirus pandemic could push telemedicine into the mainstream
Telemedicine has been around for more than two decades, but its adoption among Americans has been relatively low. The coronavirus pandemic is quickly changing that. With millions of people around the country forced to stay home in lockdown and worried about potentially exposing themselves to the virus, many of them are turning to telemedicine companies’ virtual consultation services.

New Yorker Can We Track COVID-19 and Protect Privacy at the Same Time?
Caroline Buckee, a top epidemiologist at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, has devoted her professional life to studying malaria and other infectious diseases. As news of a novel coronavirus emerged from China, Buckee realized that her area of expertise—how infectious diseases evolve as they move through vulnerable populations—would be valuable to health-care workers and elected officials as the virus spread across the globe.

The Guardian We’re embracing tech during lockdown – but can it replace the classroom?
Social distancing measures and the subsequent shift to remote working, socializing and school led to questions about the technology available to us, namely Zoom, which was labelled a “privacy disaster”.

Financial Times Satya Nadella: crisis requires co-ordinated digital response
Society’s deepest concerns are rooted right now in two connected questions: how do we protect public health and how can we promote an economic recovery that is inclusive? A third question is becoming more important because intensive use of technology has become so central to the other two: how do we preserve the privacy and cyber security needed for trustworthy computing? The past two months have seen digitisation progression that would ordinarily take two years generated by the demands of remote working and the need for accurate data and intelligence.


Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Ohio primary marks a major test for mail-in voting
Ohio will today hold its primary election almost entirely by mail  in what could be a model for the rest of the nation in November. The contest is a canary in the coal mine for more than a dozen states still planning presidential and state primaries this year.

NPR States Expand Internet Voting Experiments Amid Pandemic, Raising Security Fears
Election officials nationwide are preparing for what may be the highest election turnout in modern history in the middle of a pandemic. In response, several states will be turning to a relatively new and untested form of Internet-based voting to aid the voters who may have the most trouble getting to the polls.


TechCrunch House passes COVID-19 relief package to replenish PPP loan funding
On Thursday, the House passed the newest federal stimulus package aimed at providing financial relief for businesses and institutions hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. The bill lingered in the Senate for two weeks of debates, with Republicans seeking to pass a less comprehensive version of the legislation and Democrats working to weave other funding into the package.

Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: There’s finally a Supreme Court battle coming over the nation’s main hacking law
The Supreme Court is finally considering whether to rein in the nation’s sweeping anti-hacking law, which cybersecurity pros say is decades out of date and ill-suited to the modern Internet. The justices agreed to hear a case this fall that argues law enforcement and prosecutors have routinely applied the law too broadly.

USA Today Supreme Court makes historic change to hear oral arguments over the phone and stream them live 
The Supreme Court next week begins hearing oral arguments over the phone – a small step for social distancing, but a giant leap for the justices. For decades, the court has ignored most of the technological and transparency advancements adopted by other branches of government.

Roll Call Testing and troubleshooting are key to ‘Virtual Congress’ task force effort
Two meetings of the bipartisan Virtual Congress Task Force yielded a go-ahead order for House committees to use videoconference technology for low-stakes roundtables as a way to troubleshoot concerns with the platforms — but there are still extensive issues to sort out.

Reuters U.S. senators offer privacy bill for COVID-19 contact tracing
A group of Republican U.S. senators said Thursday they would introduce legislation to address consumer privacy concerns surrounding technology companies’ efforts to help build contact tracing apps to fight the new coronavirus outbreak.


Microsoft on the Issues Microsoft releases biannual digital trust reports
Microsoft has released its latest biannual digital trust reports on the Microsoft Reports Hub. These reports consist of the Law Enforcement Requests Report, U.S. National Security Orders Report and Content Removal Request Reports.

The Hill Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Friday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take steps to boost the security of its comment submission process following a review that revealed dozens of cyber vulnerabilities.

Fedscoop SBA addressing information security issues amid coronavirus response efforts
The Small Business Administration is working to improve its information security program, even as it launches telework and loan capabilities to aid small businesses during the coronavirus crisis. An SBA Office of Inspector General report released last month found persistent weaknesses in the agency’s risk, configuration and identity and access management.

CyberScoop Hackers spoof SBA to try to compromise companies’ computers
With the U.S. Small Business Administration continuing to play a high-profile role in getting cash to companies that are struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, cybercriminals are stepping up their efforts to steal money from those very firms.

Daily Yonder Covid-19 and Rural Broadband: Progress, Problems and a Long Way to Go
Gather a handful of policy experts together in a video chat room to talk about the state of rural broadband and you’ll cover a lot of ground. Last week’s second livestream conversation co-hosted by the Daily Yonder and the Rural Assembly was chock full of information about policy proposals and funding programs that exist to help rural communities stay connected.

Ars Technica ICANN blocks controversial sale of .org domain to a private equity firm
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the non-profit organization that oversees the Internet’s domain name system, has rejected a controversial proposal to sell the .org domain to a private equity group for more than $1 billion. It’s a serious—quite possibly fatal—blow to a proposal that had few supporters besides the organizations that proposed it.


The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Algorithmic Content Moderation
    Major social media companies are having to adjust to a difficult reality: Due to social distancing requirements, much of their human workforce that moderates content has been sent home. The timing is challenging, as platforms are fighting to contain an epidemic of misinformation, with user traffic hitting all-time records. To make up for the absence of human reviewers, platforms largely handed off the role of moderating content to algorithmic systems. As a result, machines currently have more agency over the regulation of our public discourse than ever before. This forced experiment is the greatest test to date of computers’ ability to police speech online. So far, the strategy has been relatively successful, as authoritative sources are largely promoted over disinformation. But the move to algorithmic content moderation is also exposing blindspots and resulting in disparate enforcement depending on the nature and origin of the content. (TechStream – COVID-19 is triggering a massive experiment in algorithmic content moderation, April 28, 2020)


  • Blog On Surveillance Tech and South Korea’s COVID-19 Response
    South Korea has been widely praised for its use of technology in containing the coronavirus, and that praise has, at times, generated a sense of mystique, suggesting that Korea has developed sophisticated new tools for tracing and stopping the outbreak. But the truth is far simpler. The tools deployed by Korean authorities are readily available in other technologically advanced countries. What sets Korea apart is the political willingness to use these tools to their full potential in supporting a public health response. Take, for example, Korea’s COVID-19 patient #10422. Before being diagnosed, patient #10422 visited the Hanaro supermarket in Yangjae township on March 23 from 11:32 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The patient was accompanied by their spouse, both wearing masks and using their own car for transportation. On March 27, the pair visited the Yangjae flower market from 4:52 p.m. to 5:18 p.m., again wearing masks. They then had dinner at the Brooklyn The Burger Joint at Shinsegae Centum Mall from 6:42 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. This detailed record can be found, publicly available, on many government websites, and is a testament to the extensive contact tracing carried out by Korean authorities. (TechStream, How surveillance technology powered South Korea’s COVID-19 response, April 29, 2020)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.