Can Big Data Tracking help fight Coronavirus?

As we have all learned by now, Coronavirus belongs to the family of viruses associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the common cold. Data analysis today plays a fundamental role analyzing the course of spread of the virus. In many places, it helps with isolating the source of the disease.

A developed QR Code System

The Chinese Government developed a sophisticated mobile application assigning people with a color-based QR code. This code is based on their detailed answers to questions about their travel history and health status. The color of the QR code indicates who can or cannot access certain public spaces. This code should be shown in transportation systems, shopping malls and other public areas. Although this created travel restrictions for people who work and live in different cities, provincial authorities released information maps based on local big data on confirmed patients, cases arising from public meetings, new cases and so on starting early February, becoming a reliable sources for local community and family action and behavior.

In addition, the government requested from the citizens to report their neighbors and relatives by videos, SMS messages and any other means in case they suspect they are infected and hiding.

The role of Mobile operators Big Data

The best source of geographical location for subscribers is from Mobile data.  This indeed helps in determining the spread of the virus across countries. It also predicts which neighborhoods are more likely to have future cases or those where interventions are needed with analytical models.
Smartphones give operators a precise record of the subscribers’ itinerary. However privacy laws prevent such collection of data in other countries. China has no such privacy constraints, and mobile operators have used locational data for years for advertising. A Chinese bank executive reports that his company purchases locational data from mobile operators. “If you have walked by an auto dealership three times in the last few weeks, we send you a text advertising an auto loan,” the executive said. “In the West, we wouldn’t be allowed to do that .”

Consequently, the same Big data analysis is now helping Chinese authorities establish the chain of transmission of the virus. This remains a challenge in most other countries.

How is the West Reacting?

For example Facebook is working with Chapman University and other collaborators to develop maps  showing how people are moving between areas that have hotspots of Covid-19 cases and places that do not. That could eventually help reveal patterns driving the spread of the virus. Or places at most risk of becoming new clusters of the disease. Technology is aggressively tracing Coronavirus Outside of the US. The US government would normally need to obtain users’ permission or court orders to obtain user data from mobile operators or software companies like Google and Facebook. But it has broader powers in such global emergencies.

According to the CEO of Monty Mobile, which provides AI and advanced data analytics services: “it is possible to both leverage data collected from mobile operators while protecting the privacy of individuals.”
Mr. Hachem said that “at least the data can be used today to see if people are self-isolating as directed or not.”

In a crisis, governments often make difficult decisions under uncertainty and time constraints. These decisions must be both culturally appropriate and sensitive to the population. Through early recognition of the crisis, daily briefings to the public, and simple health messaging, the Chinese government was able to reassure the public by delivering timely, accurate, and transparent information regarding the evolving epidemic. China is an example of how to use the big data analysis and how a society can respond quickly to a crisis and protect the interests of its citizens. To stop the quick spread of the disease, this discipline and technology is now needed elsewhere in the world.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of