Faced with the daily flood of news covering COVID-19 that some call the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed more than half a million people in the US alone, government and policymakers are in a tough position as they try to strike the right balance between saving lives and preserving our economy.
Finding the right balance is difficult as we strive to return to a safe environment. The latest new is focused on how can we get there, and what tools can we leverage to track, monitor, and contain the spread of this virus?
The first step is, of course, getting the basics right: wear masks, wash hands and produce test kits to conduct massive testing of the population while we anxiously await the development of proven vaccine. But during this uncertainty, the potential of science and technology to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and get back to ‘normal’ life is being pushed to new limits. Fortunately, we now have the ability to collect and analyze data in ways that were inconceivable a century ago.
By integrating data from a wide range of sources and applying analytic models, we can accurately predict the risk of infection at a local level and respond effectively. For example, by using data reported by healthcare providers on people that tested positive, government can more effectively track the virus, identify clusters, and isolate people at risk of infecting others to break the chain of infection. Real time data analysis allows a more dynamic risk assessment at a granular level to decide which schools, jobs and community should reopen. Such targeted isolation strategies would enable many businesses to remain open during an epidemic.
Similar analytical tools could be used to improve flexibility in the workplaces and make business processes more agile and resilient. Several systems still heavily rely on human interventions and when an epidemic wreaks havoc on supply chains and daily routines, companies struggle to manage demand. Effectively managing a large workforce using analytics would help lessen the impact, meet procurement needs and maintain business continuity. Resilient companies and governments – ones that remain competitive and productive within a disruptive environment, and ones that can quickly adapt to change – will have an edge.
However, using sensitive and personally identifiable data requires consent. To gain digital trust, organizations must show that they are compliant and secure. Also, a solution that can easily ingest various data types (structured, unstructured, IoT…) and drive insights in real time to tackle the epidemic early on and limit its impact is imperative.
In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic and an uncertain future, we are bracing ourselves for rapid and drastic changes in our daily lives. As reeling markets show, the pace of change is straining the public systems and infrastructures that have held society together thus far. Preparing for future disruptive events requires fundamentally changing the way we deliver basic services and deploy tools to respond more effectively and efficiently.
Digitally enabled cities and governments can help preserve the health of their communities while mitigating the economic impact.
Click here to learn more about how city leaders can leverage and analyze data from multiple sources to build smart cities where people can live and thrive in safety and comfort, even during the most challenging of times.