What's wrong with government technology? When it came to predicting Hurricane Katrina, nothing, writes Andrew Kantor at USAToday. Here are some of the ways that the US government knew what was going on.
- NOAA and NASA closely tracked the hurricane via satellite imagery
- National Weather Service computers correctly guessed where she would make land
- US Census records show that most N.O. residents were poor
- Motor vehicle records indicated most poor residents didn't have cars (that one's on the state's watch)
- Medical databasees showed how many people were in hospitals
In short, Kantor says, "The bottom line is that our technology gave us at least three days' warning that Katrina was going to strike."
But as has been documented all over the net, citizen journalism burst out all over the place. In the dearth of information and communicaton, people whipped out cameras and blogs, found themselves internet connections and communicated.
I listened to an NPR interview with Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown. Brown denied — flat out — that there were thousands of people at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. This despite the fact that an NPR reporter was right there describing the scene live.
NPR had the technology to get in and get information. FEMA didn't.
Ultimately, it's the internet and the human need for information that filled in the gaps. This doesn't mean that government is incapable of moving quickly or taking advantage of cutting-edge technology. Only that this administration was out to lunch.
With those private organizations and individuals getting the word out, the federal government's Soviet-style "everything is fine" story was being debunked literally in seconds. We all saw the truth on TV or on the Web.
... Government propaganda didn't hold up well to a citizenry armed with Web connections and cameras.