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There’s a lot being done with data to understand and protect people from COVID-19. A quick search for COVID-19 data science yields:

  • How to Fight the Coronavirus with A.I. and Data Science
  • Data scientists ID potential vulnerabilities in the COVID-19 virus
  • Computer Models Of COVID-19 Outbreaks Could Help Stop the virus

But nothing was as interesting to me as this article: China suppressed Covid-19 with AI and big data. I found it to be at once frightening in how privacy is treated in China and encouraging by how analytics played such an important role in reducing the impact of COVID-19 in China.

Here’s the subtitle of the article: The authorities tracked hundreds of millions of smartphones to obtain the information needed to contain the outbreak.

It goes on to talk about how scientists used tracking data to contain the spread of the virus.

“China used sophisticated computational methods on a scale never attempted in the West.”

Chinese data scientists built predictive models on individual and town levels to predict the probability that a person or area would face a potential outbreak. Using these predictions, Chinese authorities were able to deploy aid and resources where they were about to be needed most.


And really damn scary because it’s quite a compelling argument for handing over our location data en masse in this sort of situation. I’m definitely not condoning that, but rather in awe of the possibilities.

Further, Chinese scientists are able to track the locations of individuals back in time to look at personal interactions to inform the quarantine process where appropriate. This is incredible, and something we simply do not have the ability to do in America.

The article goes on to address the creepier side of this type of data availability – for advertisers to know our every step and bombard us with timely, relevant and completely unsolicited ads.

To be sure, I don’t condone the use of real-time tracking the way China does. Rather, I’m fascinated by their ability to do something that I haven’t seen in my lifetime – they are tracking the origins of a disease at an individual level, in real-time, and use that information to predict and reduce its spread. That part is awe-inspiring.

Time will tell if the tracking and prediction efforts in China will help lower the impact of COVID-19 compared to other countries using broad isolation techniques to quarantine their citizens.

Have you seen an interesting article/news piece on how analysts are using data to track or understand COVID-19? Please hit reply and let us know what you’ve found and maybe we will feature it in our next Tech Tuesday.

Here’s to your health and safety in the coming weeks and months!

Of Interest

Let Data Improve Your Tennis Game
I enjoyed this article because it’s quite well done with gorgeous visualizations. If you’ve ever swung a racket, take a look at this article. The author shows how to build a more effective game strategy based on the most important metrics extracted from data. He gets a 96% accuracy in predicting match results!

How a Canadian Company Warned the World of Coronavirus Nine Days Before WHO did
The company, Bluedot, gathered news and reports from hundreds of thousands of sources in 65 languages. For this vast amount of articles, they utilized natural language processing and machine learning techniques to extract and categorize reports. This is how they first came across the escalating situation in Wuhan, well before the WHO. Read about it here:

17 Responsible Live Visualizations About the Coronavirus, for You to Use
To cover the coronavirus is a challenge. Journalists should inform the public while they also have to avoid creating a panic. Here are 12 charts, maps, and tables that show the latest numbers on the coronavirus: