COVID-19 Government Policy Trackerdittofi
I was recently struck by an article written by Yuval Noah Harari titled “the world after coronavirus”. Harari reminds readers that, as with all crises, the COVID-19 crisis is fast-forwarding political & social changes at an unprecedented speed. These changes will ultimately shape our future world.
Amongst other things, Harari writes about how the governments of China & Israel have dialed up the surveillance on their respective populations, in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. He calls this a new kind of “under the skin” surveillance, where governments collect biometric data off their citizens & then use that data to monitor them. This extra data has the potential to help in containing the spread of COVID-19 but, there is a fear that it may also usher in a new norm in the “deployment of mass surveillance tools in countries that have so far rejected them” giving “legitimacy to a terrifying new surveillance system”. However, more data can be a positive. It can, for example, empower citizens to monitor the performance of their own government.
At dittofi we have created a series of new applications underpinned by the data taken from the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX). The goal of these applications is to allow citizens to surveille the performance of their government policies in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
Below is an example of an application that correlates government policy with the spread of COVID-19. The objective is to give us a window into the impact of government policy on the spread of the virus. For free access to this application, please let us know here & we will open it up for you to play around with.
Figure 1.1 China’s curve. Social distancing implemented on 29th January 2020.
Figure 1.2 The United Kingdom’s curve. Social distancing implemented on 16th March 2020.
Figure 1.3 The United States’ curve. Recommendation to avoid public gatherings on 16th March 2020.
As we can see, based on the information received from China, it took approximately one month to see an improvement from the policy of social distancing. In the UK social distancing started on 16th March &, also on 16th March, the USA recommended to avoid public gatherings. Therefore, it would seem plausible to consider that social distancing will continue to be a feature of everyday life in the UK & the USA for the coming months.
Insights such as these should obviously be considered when discussing economic policy, but also when thinking about the human spirit. Having knowledge about when isolation is likely to be over, gives us something to aim for. A spurious remark by one of our world leaders that isolation will be over in 14 days, has the possibility to hurt both with economic planning & the psychology of a nation when it becomes apparent that they have underestimated the lag time between policy & effect.
Of course there are many more variables that would need consideration to get a complete picture of how government policy impacts the overall well being of a nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, simply looking at the total number of infected people doesn’t take account of the cost of human life in preventing the spread of the virus. A solution that kills more people than the problem is not really a solution.
So, the number of dead Venezuelan’s dying from starvation because of Nicolas Maduro’s decision to block off the Venezuela borders to COVID-19 ultimately needs to be considered in ranking his performance as a politician. For this we need more data & more descriptive analytics. Also, the lack of accurate data from totalitarian regimes such as North Korea make anything even bordering on accurate analysis impossible in these areas.
Ultimately, our leaders’ performances will evolve with some winning & some losing policies. However, during this unprecedented time of breakneck decision making that will define the future world in which we will all live in, it is more important than ever to remain watchful of our politicians. We must continue to surveil & measure the impact of their policies & to resist the temptation of complacency.
If there is a reader that would like to build on our work using the dittofi application design studio, please contact us here, we would be happy to pass you our code. For any research relating to COVID-19, we are supplying our software & technical support without cost.
Perhaps there is even a bright spark out there that can think of a new way humanity can use open data sets to monitor how coordinated our world world leaders’ responses have been & continue to be towards the COVID-19 pandemic.
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