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Short Rant on Viruses, How We Combat Trouble, and Your Happy End

by Bart Willemsen  |  February 28, 2020  |  1 Comment

My pea-sized brain sometimes has trouble to understand things, no matter how it works on a problem. One of the things I observed is that there are more words written about the Corona virus (COVID-19) than actions seem to be taken to combat it.

When the H1N1 flu hit Western EU in the earlier 2000s, and later SARS had many travellers take protective precautions, every airport started handing out face masks and an abundance of hand sanitizer was available at every desk and corner. Today, I still don’t see it anywhere. In fact, walking with a face mask of my own through customs at GRU in Sao Paulo, I was halted by an officer and forced to take it off ‘so that facial recognition camera’s could properly register me entering the country’. So that is the trade-off you want? All customs checks and controls are done, successfully passed, but people are forced to take involuntary health risks so that privacy can be invaded. I’m no hypochondriac, but can very well imagine the discomfort people may experience in general here. It’s not only the individual. Even Gartner clients can benefit from our research on how to manage the impact of pandemics (see, for example, (Webinar) The Coronavirus Outbreak: Assessing Talent Impact and Driving Remote Working Success and Winning in the Turns: Overcoming COVID-19 Through Pandemic Preparedness – Gartner potentially paywalled content)

In the anti-virus industry, a lot of times comparisons have been made between combating pandemics and combating digital viruses. In many models, infection rates have to go up to serious levels before reduction sets in. And I’m not even talking about simple things like food, water, normal groceries and other every day life things. The longer it takes, the more stringent measures must become. If only the international collaboration would be able to act immediately and entirely. I am still hoping we’ll put more effort in combating that what threatens humans directly than that what threatens systems first.

I see large gatherings not take place, organizations not showing up at summits and events around the world, and that’s all fine. All have their own risk appetite levels and sense of responsibilities, including employee well being. Prepare and mitigate what you can. However, most of the conversations about COVID-19 are primarily about its economical impact.


Real people. Are we forgetting this? So what of economics. Have we completely lost our minds and forgot proper prioritization of what is more and what is less important? Facial Recognition must take place in favour of everything else and the individual is forced to give up things far more valued, both privacy and health. Business deals and forecasts are important but are now in communications elevated above the life of an individual.

I’m happy to see a different view inside Gartner where our colleagues and clients come first. Events we all looked forward to are cancelled or postponed, and information provision is frequent and broad. Please explain to me how any organization can otherwise put anything above the life and health of a person.

Please protect the sanity of my pea-sized brain and my feelings for the human race. You can do so by putting in the comments a success story about how your organization DOES put human well-being over the P&L results and shareholder satisfaction. We all need good news, share it here and have a great weekend.


PS: Don’t tell me your shareholders’ health is helped by good P&L ‘so that they won’t have  a heart attack’.

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Bart Willemsen
VP Analyst,
4 years at Gartner
11 years IT Industry

Bart Willemsen is a VP Analyst with focus on privacy compliance, risk management and all privacy-related challenges in an international context. With detailed knowledge of privacy in various jurisdictions, he's also proficient in security and risk management strategies. Read Full Bio

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