Internet Proved Its Value Following World Trade Center Attack
Most information travels across networks without human intervention. In fact, computers talk to computers more often than people talk to people over these networks.
And that might be the reason why many people view networks and the Internet as a technical or business tool more than a communications tool for people.
The term “network” itself invokes images of computers, cables and software. And we reinforce these images by talking and writing about business transactions, supply chains and the standards that enable networks to work.
Networks in general, the Internet specifically, proved their usefulness in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy.
First, it demonstrated resiliency and reliability–a testament to the U.S. Department of Defense, which created the Internet nearly 30 years ago to assure the flow of information when parts of the network might not be operational. In other words, if one part goes down, it does not all go down.
Furthermore, the Internet was able to handle a peak load quite well, although it slowed down quite a bit on the afternoon of Sept. 11. But it was available.
Michael Dertouzos has passed away recently. He was the director of the computer lab at MIT and he spoke at the ACORD Conference a few years ago. He frequently remarked about the disconnect between people and technology and devoted his work to bridging that gap.
Technology is still very complex and not sufficiently transparent to serve us well. His vision of technology was that it should be fully integrated into our lives in meaningful ways.
My Sept. 11 story is nothing extraordinary–more of an inconvenience than anything else in the wake of this tragedy, but it demonstrates the usefulness of the Internet for connecting people.
I was in Europe, where making a telephone call to the United States was impossible that day and a good part of the next. All circuits were busy.
However, I was able to make a local telephone call into a local Internet Service Provider in France and was able to reach people in the United States by e-mail. Getting information about our families, friends and associates was our first priority. Later, we focused on getting home.
On that score, calling an airline was impossible as well at times, but again the Internet was a source of information. The Internet proved to be an effective way for many firms to broadcast information to millions of people very quickly. It would have been impractical to do the same with employees talking on the telephone to customers.