I Love the Internet But It’s Not Exactly a First Responder

In Mississippi, some victims of the storm said they had called FEMA’s disaster assistance line but were told to check the Internet or wait for postal service, which is not operating. Check the Internet? Are you kidding? With what computer? With what power? With what ISP? And BTW, you better have a PC with IE 6!

Anyone who knows me knows I love the internet. But please. It is not anywhere near ubiquitous, nor is it completely reliable or easy for non-techies. And as free as much of it is, you still need a computer, electricity, and an account with an ISP to get on it. How people who have lost everything (literally) are supposed to just go hop online — especially in the poor and devastated South — is beyond me.

And even if they do, the FEMA web site is a tumor of Microsoft, that is only usable on a PC with Internet Explorer 6.0. That’s about half of the current U.S. internet users. Why does our government spend money on a web platform that not only half of us can’t use, but is based on the MOST insecure and unsafe web browser currently available? Surfing the web with IE is the fastest and most reliable way to fill your computer with spyware and viruses. And that is what our government has chosen to run its emergency management web operations. (Looking at our Bare Feet web stats, only 18% visit our site with a PC and IE 6.0.)

“In Houston, local officials complained that FEMA’s computer system kept crashing. In Ocean Springs, Miss., officials started turning people away from a FEMA disaster recovery center three hours before closing time, saying they were overwhelmed.”

So it’s good news people and the government are considering the internet as a key tool in managing operations, but let’s not pretend it is more developed than it truly is. And by all means, let’s make sure that Section 508 accessiblity rules (issued by the Feds) are also obeyed by the Feds. One of these days Microsoft might actually decide to play with the rest of us, instead of creating monopolies of products that not only don’t work, but are harmful as well.

NY Times: FEMA Reporting, Quoted Material Above Free registration may be required to read the full article.

eWeek discussing FEMA and Microsoft

Real Stories About This Situation on BoingBoing Blog plus a few user tips for ways to get around the FEMA web site limitations (minimum geek IQ of 130 may be required).

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