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If Ebola's a problem here, just imagine it in India

Patrick Thibodeau | Oct. 30, 2014
Indian cities have the same kind of density that has allowed Ebola to spread rapidly through Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, along with slums, sanitation problems and poor population-to-physician ratios, making it difficult to track cases.

As the U.S. has discovered, it only takes a few cases of Ebola to turn things upside down.

Months into the outbreak in West Africa, federal and state officials are still fighting over quarantine policies and travel bans, and reacting in disruptive fashion to the threat. Elementary schools were closed in Texas and Ohio communities after it was learned that students traveled on same plane used by an infected Dallas nurse.

It wasn't even the same flight.

After an infected doctor went bowling in New York City, the bowling alley was shut down and a biohazard team called in to clean it. That could have easily been your office. This is just in the U.S.; but consider the ramifications if that starts to happen in, say, India.

"Ebola cases showing up in urban India area would be a nightmare," said Andrew Schroeder, director of research and analysis for Direct Relief, a nonprofit that provides medical assistance to areas in need of help. Indian cities have the same kind of density that has allowed Ebola to spread rapidly through Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, along with slums, sanitation problems and poor population-to-physician ratios, he said. It would be difficult to track cases.

India does have a tier of its society that is very well equipped, but there are large portions of the country that are just as poor as West Africa, said Schroeder.

The only reason consideration is being given to travel bans of West African nations, is "because they are not seen as terribly significant to the world economy," said Schroeder. "But you couldn't say the same thing about India or Indonesia."

India-based development teams are now an essential part of U.S. companies and provide all manner of IT services and support. The Everest Group, a research and analysis firm that covers the outsourcing market, is recommending that U.S. firms give some thought to global Ebola planning.

"IT managers should definitely be thinking about their response to an Ebola outbreak in India and similar markets where they have service delivery teams," said Marvin Newell, a partner at Everest Group. Firms need to "broaden their assumptions" around disaster recovery.

With Ebola, a big difference is the high quarantine potential, which would severely limit travel, said Newell. In India, IT organizations often make bus transportation available to team members. It's easy to imagine an Ebola-related scenario in which bus transportation is shut down. That means the office may be open, but team members can't get there, he said.

Working from home may not be an option, since lack of connectivity and security concerns "often make working remotely from homes not possible," said Newell. Many response plans stipulate that a team would fly to another location, but during a pandemic, flights might be restricted or grounded, he said.

 

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