Lessons for the next pandemic: reflections from a UK government COVID response project

In this session I’ll talk about what I learned working on one of the UK government’s COVID response projects. I’ll propose how the DevOps community could use some of these lessons for the next Black Swan event.

In March 2020 the UK government ordered a national lockdown. Government Digital Service, the UK government’s digital arm, jumped to respond to ordinary people’s needs in an extraordinary time. A critical job was getting food to vulnerable people who could not leave their homes during lockdown. In a matter of days a team of public servants—SREs, cyber security engineers, developers, product managers—built the Vulnerable People Service. It connected National Health Service data with local governments and grocery stores, ultimately orchestrating food deliveries to vulnerable people.

The talk will highlight the critical role infrastructure played in building a fast and effective solution, how our team approached developing software in and for a pandemic, the processes which helped us succeed, and how we can use this knowledge to prepare for the next international emergency.



Sarah C Young

Senior Site Reliability Engineer

Seattle transplant most recently from London, I’m a former UK Civil Servant currently on a career break.

A decade ago I was a cultural historian of gender and