Posted by Dermot Barry
Managing Director, Worldwide Public Safety, Microsoft
Now more than ever, technology helps governments and non-government organizations address some of the most pressing public safety challenges, from responding to disasters and managing significant events to protecting critical information and national security needs.
This week, Microsoft is hosting its third annual worldwide Public Safety Symposium (PSS), an event designed to increase awareness of how technology is used to address daily challenges and ensure governments can better protect their citizens. This year, senior operational staff, first responders, policy makers, IT strategists and Microsoft partners from more than 35 countries are on hand to discuss trends and public safety.
Not surprisingly, given recent events in Japan and the growing number of natural disasters and man-made crises we have seen over the last few years, communication and access to technology is a critical need of governments to effectively deliver aid and services to their citizens. Last year at PSS, we talked about cloud computing and the impact it has in coordinating quickly and effectively. This year, the “promise of the cloud” has been expanded with real-world, real-time examples and a host of cloud-based partner applications and services aimed at one thing: helping governments and agencies effectively respond to the needs of citizens and keeping their communities safe. The graphic below outlines some of the cloud solutions at work in several recent disasters:
Technology has always played a significant role in enabling collaboration in disaster response situations, and cloud-based solutions make it easier for the right people to communicate and collaborate, effectively deliver aid and coordinate mitigation strategies. Cloud-based solutions can be deployed almost immediately after a disaster – even from thousands of miles away – enabling immediate collaboration and planning. However, they’re also part of rebuilding communities after a major event. Specifically, technology is supporting the long-term efforts to help rebuild in the wake of the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan.
Another component to public safety, and a critical topic of conversation at PSS this year, is the threat of cyber-attacks against people searching for information or attempting to donate following a disaster. Criminals are very creative and can take advantage of high profile news stories and events to get computer users to click on a link or an e-mail attachment that will infect computers with malicious software known as malware. The need to protect citizens, critical infrastructures and government networks from this type of attack is a critical and complex issue. Microsoft has a Digital Crimes Unit that focuses exclusively on these issues, working to make the Internet safer. Anyone worried that their PC might be infected with malware should visit http://support.microsoft.com/botnets where they will find free tools to scan and clean their computer.
Opportunities within the cloud are endless, especially in the area of public safety. I, for one, am very excited about the conversation at this week’s event and the truly amazing ways people, governments and partners are working together to make a real impact in their regions.