How soon U.S. businesses and communities can be up and running again depends on a plan of action from state governors.
In this just-published New York Times piece, Harvard University Professor Jonathan Zittrain, and co-authors Margaret Bourdeaux and Beth Cameron, call on governors to promptly arrive at a collaborative prescription to speed up testing and delivery of results, which will ultimately contain the spread of the virus and get the country back on track.
“Testing and a rapid return of results should be the governors’ first order of business, and they will need to engage in novel forms of unity and cooperation for bolstering overall testing capability before the end of the summer,” says Zittrain, who, among other roles, co-chairs the Berkman Klein Center’s Digital Pandemic Response Practice with Dr. Bourdeaux. “We strongly urge governors to schedule a summit within the next two weeks to coordinate.”
The authors stress that unity among the states is about self-interest, not just being neighborly, because as interstate travel continues, inadequate testing anywhere threatens public health everywhere. As an example, they point to how the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard in Massachusetts has stepped up with more testing capacity — so much so that it is not being fully used. Yet no comprehensive process is in place for a doctor in another state to prescribe a test that can be processed by Broad or another underused lab.
“That’s a problem that governors can help solve,” the authors explain. “They can also find ways to subsidize investments by labs to expand capacity, to help untangle medical insurance complications so tests are covered, and to prompt innovations in testing.”
In addition to his role at the Berkman Klein Center, Zittrain – a professor of law and computer science – advises private and public organizations on a wide range of issues related to technology and governance, Internet privacy, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, automation, the digital economy and the myriad ways technological transformation will affect the future of work and life. As a speaker, educator, researcher and writer, he offers up the “big picture” of technological change and, in doing so, helps companies develop products, platforms and business models that work for both consumers and government regulators.
As a vocal proponent of building trust around the uses of technology, Zittrain keeps a close eye on how social networks like Facebook and Twitter are affecting our lives and offers up practical ideas for regulating such platforms. In addition, he has been a leading voice defining and clarifying pressing issues related to the ethics of data use. And in a recent Medium piece, he addresses valid concerns around contact tracing in the wake of COVID-19 and social protests.
All these issues affect organizations in every sector. But right now, the first order of business is for leaders to urge their governors to implement the prescription for recovery offered up by Zittrain and his colleagues today, starting with a phone call or a letter. Their plan is not only in the best interest of businesses and the economy, but the fastest road to getting our kids back in school and our society back to health.
“Sorting out testing is foundational to slowing the spread of the virus,” say the authors. “From there, governors can build a comprehensive national plan of attack. Doing so will require new forms of coordinated governance. In the absence of federal leadership, it’s up to governors to step to the fore.”