IT is heartwarming to observe how promptly the OECS has moved to support our fellow member states since last week’s passage of Hurricane Irma, which caused particularly extensive damage to the Leeward Islands.
The island of Barbuda was described as “barely habitable” by Prime Minster Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, following reports of widespread property damage. It will undoubtedly be an expensive and painstaking undertaking to restore normalcy to the affected territories, but there is a glimmer of hope.
From the mountains of rubble left behind by the disaster, we can eventually look forward to restored, prepared and more responsive communities. Otherwise, the unappealing prospect of history repeating itself, with the loss of life and property, will continue.
When disaster strikes ICT systems, or other systems failures occur, the natural tendency is to respond with a fix that strengthens or improves the affected system. For example, a damaged ‘medium quality’ machine may be replaced with an upgraded high-quality machine, representing an effective strengthening and improvement to what was there before.
In a similar manner, a broken cable or network link would be sensibly upgraded by providing a safer connection, perhaps using a different, better-protected route to avoid the same disaster. What I am essentially describing is the very real condition where a change, especially a forced change, necessarily leads to an incremental improvement, just because we need to think about making a change.
This thinking should, hopefully, not come as a surprise. In the physical environment, a road washed away when a river bursts its banks might be relocated a safer distance away, or the river itself might be re-routed or deepened to allow a greater flow in the future. Likewise, a damaged school building, when repaired, should easily sustain the same conditions that caused the original damage, without requiring the same extensive repairs.
Thankfully, computer hardware technology benefits from advances in technology. Tomorrow, the replacement cost of a machine you purchased yesterday should be cheaper than the original machine. If the cost is unchanged, then the capacity of that new machine should exceed the specifications of the original machine.
In disaster-prone regions like ours where hurricanes may make islands barely habitable, we have the opportunity, with each dollar spent, to invest in better thinking, equipment and technology to shield us from future impacts. If we exactly replace like for like, then we have not done our jobs in handling the current impact or in preparing for the next disaster.
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About the Author
Dr. Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia, offering expertise in systems analysis, design, and database development.