How open data can help us beat the pandemic
- Opening up and sharing information about coronavirus allows the scientific and academic communities to test new strategies to stop the virus.
- The Open Government Alliance recommends sharing models used to tally cases and make projections.
- New Zealand – one of the most successful countries in managing the pandemic – has opened up data on the impact of the coronavirus on trade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the world’s largest ever collective learning exercise. Cooperation, unprecedented on a global scale, has underpinned this dynamic. Perhaps the most obvious is scientific cooperation, with governments and universities opening up and sharing their research. Cities around the world have also been exchanging strategies through international urban cooperation networks, while the alliance between Apple and Google to improve contract tracing apps is perhaps the most unexpected example of collaboration in the private sector.
Opening up and sharing information about coronavirus allows the scientific and academic communities, and professionals from all disciplines, to analyze, compare, and test new hypotheses as the virus progresses. The information is also key to reducing uncertainty and ensuring that more and more people take the necessary precautions. Johns Hopkins University’s global map, built with data reported daily by each country, is a good example of how to visualize data to make it easily understandable. Opening up data is a critical resource for scientists, researchers, and big data experts racing against the clock to help curb the spread of the virus.
With respect to governments, the Open Government Alliance, of which Argentina and the City of Buenos Aires are members, recommends sharing the models used to tally cases and make projections. This makes the fundamentals of decision-making visible and allows scientists and experts to analyse and help improve them. At the same time, the Alliance suggests taking other measures to protect the data and privacy of people in those countries where companies are working together with governments in developing responses to the pandemic.
The City Government of Toronto, for example, publishes a summary of health indicators, geo-referenced data, and information on active outbreaks in the city. Bogotá’s “SaluData” offers up indicators disaggregated by locality in exhaustive detail. After entering its third stage of reopening, the City of Chicago released a new metrics dashboard that allows data to be filtered by zip code, age, gender, and racial/ethnic origin.
Using data from the National Health Insurance Administration and working together with the private sector, the Taiwanese government developed a website that shows the availability of masks according to the stock currently available in pharmacies. And it’s not only health data that’s being published: New Zealand – one of the most successful countries in managing the pandemic – has opened up data on the impact of the coronavirus on international trade.
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Fernando Straface, Secretary-General, City of Buenos Aires