How Data Science Is Keeping People Safe During COVID-19
Data, and more importantly, the way people use it, is shaping and refining approaches to COVID-19 safety. Here's a closer look at how this is happening.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging for several months now and will likely continue for months to come. Amid this ongoing crisis, people need resources to stay as safe as they can for as long as they can. Data science and its related technologies are enabling such actions, playing an essential role in global safety.
Times of hardship often serve as proving grounds for systems that people have boasted about in calmer days. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception, and data science has more than proved its value. Data, and more importantly, the way people use it, is shaping and refining approaches to COVID-19 safety.
Here's a closer look at how this is happening:
1. Influencing Legal Policies
Data analysis is central to establishing effective policies for combating the spread of the virus. Politicians can't expect to enact any adequate prevention measures if they don't know anything about how COVID-19 is spreading through their area. If they turn to data scientists, on the other hand, they can gain the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.
The extent to which governments take advantage of these resources varies, but they are available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzes various data pools to offer metrics like case trends, hospitalization rates and mortality reports to authorities. As states begin to reopen, these analytics become increasingly valuable.
2. Measuring the Efficacy of Medical Approaches
There's still a lot that medical professionals don't know about the virus, so COVID-19 safety is a developing subject. As doctors learn more about the disease, they find that some older practices were ineffective. For example, most doctors have turned away from hydroxychloroquine in favor of drugs like remdesivir and dexamethasone.
Data science can go beyond suggesting medical approaches and show if current ones work or not. As authorities continue to implement new practices, they need to keep an eye on data to see if these methods are useful. Better data analytics can provide more conclusive answers about what is and isn't working.
3. Ensuring Product Quality Throughout the Logistics Chain
The supply chain is the backbone of many facets of life, especially during the pandemic. Last-mile deliveries have increased more than tenfold as people order necessities instead of leaving the house to shop. With more perishable goods like groceries moving through the mail, companies need data science to ensure product quality.
Some containers carrying frozen goods need to operate between minus 20 and minus 65 degrees Celsius, or they could compromise the items inside. Data scientists can help companies create smart monitoring systems to make sure these containers maintain the proper environment. Without the right data tools, shipped groceries, vaccines and plants could spoil en route.
4. Combating Misinformation
Amid all the confusion of the pandemic, misinformation has seen an outbreak of its own. Incorrect information can be a threat to COVID-19 safety, but data science can help. Social media users generate too much data for a human moderator to monitor, but machine-learning-based analytic tools can flag potentially false information.
Machine learning data tools can learn to identify harmful language like hate speech or that which calls for violence. In the same way, this technology can highlight statements that could be false or misleading. By comparing social media posts to data sets to scientifically accepted truths, these tools can find and flag misinformation.
5. Enabling and Improving Contact Tracing
One of the most critical steps in COVID-19 safety is contact tracing. Some of the most effective instances of contact tracing have taken advantage of data science techniques. Countries like South Korea have established systems that analyze government data on infections to alert users if they might've been exposed to the virus.
These apps need to employ data science techniques like data acquisition, cleansing and masking to work correctly. Data scientists can lend their expertise to app developers and researchers to help create a functioning contact tracing network. With these tools, numerous areas can take more control over slowing the spread of the virus.
Data Science Provides Information Amid Global Confusion
Through all of its different applications, data science is a source of one essential offering — information. If authorities and citizens are to respond to the pandemic appropriately, they need to understand the situation as a whole. Data science enables people to draw a more cohesive picture from raw data, bolstering the fight against COVID-19.
Bio: Devin Partida is a big data and technology writer, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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