Egypt’s Internet Shutdown a Lesson for Non-profits

CIO magazine ran an article about how Egypt’s Internet shutdown should be a wakeup call for CIOs. It’s a fair point, considering how many organizations run their businesses completely online – in the cloud. If the cloud were to go down, they’d be without a business.

It’s not a far-fetched notion. The CIO article says:

Virtually every country’s government reserves the right to temporarily nationalize and control what’s considered critical infrastructure, which usually includes mobile networks, fixed-line telecommunications and Internet backbone systems.

Governments can invoke that right during national emergencies, whether they be natural disasters, terrorist attacks or any other incident that qualifies as such under a country’s legal code.

If CIOs of corporations are starting to sweat a little, so should non-profit execs. Many have organizations that work in countries where civil unrest isn’t a possibility, but a given. That doesn’t mean they should backpedal into a dark, unconnected communications landscape, in which they rely solely on mailed letters and phone calls. It just means they need to do some risk assessment.

Non-profit leaders should sit down with their entire team and think about what such an event would mean to their organization. What would people do if they rely on the website to gather up-to-date information? What’s the plan if text messaging fails? Is there redundancy built into website backups, if they’re stored on a virtual machine?

Risk assessment is one of those activities that’s easy to put off until it’s needed. But by that time, it’s too late.

With the Egyptian uprising happening in the background, this is perfect time for non-profit leaders to stop procrastinating with their risk assessment. They should think about the most necessary technologies they use and come up with a concrete plan for what to do in their home country as well as those they work in if Internet technologies are canceled.

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