March 26, 2020

WASHINGTON – As more state, local, and national governments issue shelter-in place orders in reaction to COVID-19, global tech trade association the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) is calling on policymakers globally to adopt clear and consistent guidance regarding essential workers, including information and communications technology (ICT) workers, for the purpose of aiding governments around the globe working to protect public health and safety during the pandemic.

Workers across the ICT sector are critical to the delivery of digital services and related infrastructure in support of the public health response. Specifically, these workers are aiding health care systems and providers; allowing employees and businesses to operate remotely; securing and servicing networks, data centers and cloud services; enabling e-commerce and the delivery of food, medicine, and other necessities; keeping students engaged and learning; manufacturing technology products and components from microprocessors to supercomputers; and otherwise enabling governments to respond to this global health crisis.

Ensuring that these essential employees can continue to work during this time is vital. However, inconsistent guidance from different jurisdictions who implement lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders or other restrictions on personal movement could jeopardize their ability to provide the products and services that people need during this challenging time. By acting now, jurisdictions can ensure ICT workers can continue to aid in the response effort without delay.

“Services provided by the technology industry are crucial to every aspect of response to the current crisis – from healthcare, to emergency communications, to remote work, to distance learning and more,” said Jason Oxman, ITI’s President and CEO. “We urge leaders at every level of government, in economies across the globe, to adopt clear and comprehensive guidance for ICT workers in their jurisdictions. Doing so will ensure these men and women are designated as ‘essential’ so they may continue performing their critical jobs and functions, including keeping local communities safe, secure and connected. We stand ready to support our colleagues in government in meeting this common challenge in constructive, decisive, and pragmatic ways.”

Uniform adoption would avoid a patchwork of confusing emergency orders and site closures that could disrupt critical supply chains and industries and avoid additional bureaucratic procedures that may be problematic for businesses. Importantly, states must also effectively communicate these orders and exceptions during issue of enforcement.

“In the United States, it is critical that policymakers at the state and local level not only adopt the guidance on essential workers issued by CISA, but that state and local officials clearly communicate that guidance to those on the frontlines enforcing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders,” ITI urged governments. “Beyond that, we encourage that global governments follow a similar approach, ensuring that clear and consistent guidance is pushed out to officials charged with enforcing orders locally.”

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) recently issued Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce during the COVID-19 response provides a useful template from which governments across the United States and around the world can draw.

In the United States, California and Maryland have adopted CISA guidance in full. Other states have adopted similar guidance, but inconsistencies and additional layers of requirements have created confusion and barriers for critical employees to get to work. Countries including India, Malaysia, and Brazil have recently come out with their own shelter-in-place measures that have lacked clear measures on ICT workers. ITI recently sent letters to officials in India, Malaysia, and Brazil on this issue and will continue to reach out to other countries affected by the pandemic.

Read ITI’s statement to governments here or below:

International Business Community Calls on Policymakers Worldwide to Adopt Clear and Consistent Guidance on Essential Workers that Includes Information and Communications Technology Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 26, 2020

As the world’s leading business associations, we call on policymakers globally to adopt clear and consistent guidance regarding essential workers, including information and communications technology (ICT) workers, for the purpose of aiding governments around the globe working to protect public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ICT products, services, and components play an indispensable role in driving innovation and economic growth across the global economy, including in the areas of health care, financial services, transportation, energy, and public safety. At this time of crisis, they are also critical to public health. Workers across the ICT sector are critical to supporting health care providers; allowing employees to work remotely; securing and servicing networks, data centers and cloud services; enabling e-commerce and the delivery of food, medicine, and other necessities; keeping students engaged and learning; manufacturing technology products and components from microprocessors to supercomputers; and otherwise enabling governments to respond to this global health crisis. Ensuring that these essential employees can continue to work during this time is vital. They must be able to provide the products and services that people need during this challenging time, especially in the face of government lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders or other restrictions on personal movement.

Governments should provide clear and comprehensive guidance to assure the continuation of critical ICT manufacturing and uninterrupted delivery of essential services. Recent guidance published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) provides a useful template from which governments around the world can draw, designating as essential during the COVID-19 crisis a wide range of ICT workers, including in the following categories:

  • Data center operators, including system administrators, HVAC & electrical engineers, security personnel, IT managers, data transfer solutions engineers, software and hardware engineers, and database administrators;
  • Client service centers, field engineers, and other technicians supporting critical infrastructure, as well as manufacturers and supply chain vendors that provide hardware and software, and information technology equipment (to include microelectronics and semiconductors) for critical infrastructure;
  • Workers responding to cyber incidents involving critical infrastructure, including medical facilities, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and federal facilities, energy and utilities, and banks and financial institutions, and other critical infrastructure categories and personnel;
  • Workers supporting the provision of essential global, national and local infrastructure for computing services (including cloud computing services), business infrastructure, web-based services, and critical manufacturing;
  • Workers who support command centers, including, but not limited to Network Operations Command Centers, Broadcast Operations Control Centers and Security Operations Command Centers;
  • Maintenance of communications infrastructure, including privately owned and maintained communication systems supported by technicians, operators, call-centers, wireline and wireless providers, cable service providers, satellite operations, undersea cable landing stations, Internet Exchange Points, and manufacturers and distributors of communications equipment;
  • Engineers, technicians and associated personnel responsible for infrastructure construction and restoration, including contractors for construction and engineering of fiber optic cables; and
  • Installation, maintenance and repair technicians that establish, support or repair service as needed.

(The categories of ICT workers referenced above constitute a non-exhaustive list; the CISA guidance will be updated in the future as circumstances warrant.)

We urge leaders at every level of government, in economies across the globe, to adopt similarly clear and comprehensive guidance in their jurisdictions. In the United States, it is critical that policymakers at the state and local level not only adopt the guidance on essential workers issued by CISA, but that state and local officials clearly communicate that guidance to those on the frontlines enforcing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. Beyond that, we encourage that global governments follow a similar approach, ensuring that clear and consistent guidance is pushed out to officials charged with enforcing orders locally. Undertaking these actions will ensure ICT workers are designated as “essential” so they may continue performing their critical jobs and functions, including keeping local communities safe, secure and connected. We stand ready to support our colleagues in government in meeting this common challenge in constructive, decisive, and pragmatic ways.