Data in the time of COVID-19: what can be done in the global south?

Posted by on March 31, 2020  /  0 Comments

A pandemic is an epidemic that crosses national or continental boundaries.  Inherently, the effects of pandemics are global.  But because the health systems are weaker, and a greater proportion of the population is in the informal sector, the effects in terms of deaths and livelihoods may be stronger in the Global South.  Therefore, novel applications of data analytics are of great value in the Global South.  However, lower levels of datafication and network and smartphone penetration pose challenges.

Because diseases such as COVID-19 and Ebola are transmitted person-to-person, the effects are broader than people getting sick or dying.  Intuitive responses may be anti-social and regressive.  Prevention may involve certain actions that may disrupt social and economic activities.  Prevention also requires identification of and effective isolation or treatment of persons who have been in contact with persons diagnosed as diseased.  Given the possibility that asymptomatic individuals may still transmit the disease, various forms of mobility and contact restrictions may be applied to a relatively large number of persons.  Behavioral change and restraint are central elements.  Therefore, data, information and knowledge can assist in implementing efficient and effective responses.  The intention of this note is to provide a tour d’horizon, rather than explore issues in depth.  Where LIRNEasia has engaged in relevant research, it will be mentioned.

This tour d’horizon will place emphasis on the possible of uses of data to help stop or slow the spread of the disease directly.  It gives weight to what can be done in the short term.

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