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  /  Covid   /  How Is Open Data Helping Government To Combat COVID-19?
Open data

How Is Open Data Helping Government To Combat COVID-19?

Understanding How Open Data Plays A Critical  Role To Defeat COVID-19


In the world currently grappled in the throes of COVID-19, data has come a long way in battling against the pandemic. While data sounds arbitrary, it is the backbone of several scientific, technological development taking now. Further, it also plays a significant role in policymaking. Be public administration, such as e-government and evidence-based policymaking or simple population census, data helps to make sense of what is happening around us, what to do next, and how? While government bodies have previously relied on data (especially open data) to make unique policies and programs, now it shall be doing the same to address the health crisis amidst COVID-19.  This open data will also allow planning to mitigate COVID-19 geographic flares, training healthcare, and administrative workers, lockdown relaxation, reopening of flights and shipping, run a drug discovery project, and so on.

Joel Gurin, President, and Founder of Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE), Washington DC, says, “One of the most promising trends that we see right now is that there is more recognition of the value of open data in a decision-making and more collaborative innovation between the private sector and government.”

The world will be rendered standstill if this data is not open, decentralized, nor allows interoperability.  The answer is open data, which is the idea that data is freely available for use and reuse without ownership restrictions. Without open data, there will be plenty of roadblocks in the free flow of quality research data and ideas, and thus decelerate the pace of research critical to combating the disease. Also, due to inaccessible data, government policies will be either one-sided or worse blindsided. Businesses, especially the stock market, will not be able to function without the availability of data or collaborate with other companies that align with their necessities. Hence to stimulate the contribution of open data to fight COVID-19, policymakers must put priority towards adequate data governance models, interoperable standards, sustainable data-sharing agreements involving the public sector, private sector, and civil society for access to data across borders.

According to Michael Spence, Nobel laureate in economics and academic committee member of the Luohan Academy, a research institute initiated by the Alibaba Group, the reason behind China’s recovery from COVID-19 was exploiting data for the greater good. “China’s rebound has been relatively quick because of both aggressive containment and the use of multiple data sets to provide people with what amounts to a mobile health certificate,” he says.

Even data analysts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using open government data and de-identified health care data to help local governments predict if they may see a surge of more lethal cases of COVID-19 in their areas. Gurin highlights that open data is also driving government response using social determinants of health. These include factors such as income, education, access to food and transportation, and other social elements that can have negative impacts on people’s health. By tracking these elements through open data, governments and businesses can determine the areas that need critical aid and medical services.

But before that government needs to identify what kind of data it wants to work upon or allow to be shared between two institutions. This refers to the size of the data, along with its variety, velocity, and veracity. Besides, different countries handle data about positive confirmed COVID-19 cases, casualties, and recovery data differently. So, policymakers must come up with data governance models that allow free flow of open research data by default, while preserving individual privacy. Since all data are not adequately findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR), it can pose another hurdle too. To alleviate this, the government can secure adequate infrastructure (including data and software repositories, computational infrastructure, and digital collaboration platforms) to allow for recurrent occurrences of emergencies.  Lastly, we must have enough regulatory frameworks that would enable interoperability within the networks of large electronic health records providers on a real-time basis.