What We Learned from the Recent COVID-19 Data Challenge and Its Importance

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” content_placement=”middle” css=”.vc_custom_1528277611041{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 200px !important;background-color: #791746 !important;}” el_class=”qimage qedsubheader qednewssubheader”][vc_column][vc_custom_heading source=”post_title” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left|color:%23ffffff” use_theme_fonts=”yes” el_class=”text-uppercase news-title”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image source=”featured_image” img_size=”full” alignment=”center” css=”.vc_custom_1527922572832{margin-top: -230px !important;margin-bottom: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;}” el_class=”qed-featured-img”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the second week of March when we were all wondering what was going on with COVID-19 and social distancing, I decided to put together a data challenge where we would try and make sense of all the data that is being thrown at us.  I found that it was important to not only understand what kind of data is out there but also how to make sense of it. Thus, this was the idea behind the COVID-19 Data Challenge.

Drawing on our relationships with other partners we worked with Georgetown, Tableau, IDS, Clear Outcomes, and others to put together a Data Challenge where we would focus on 2 key efforts:

  1. Develop a pandemic data room which would house data from around the world.
  2. Put together a challenge that would provide insight on social behavior and ‘flattening the curve’.

We had registration from 850 participants from 30+ countries. The Pandemic Data Room was visited by 1500+ people from 80+ countries and now features more than forty data sources. We received 90 submissions. 56% of the participants were professionals. 44% students. I was overwhelmed with the interest and energy behind such an effort.

The participation’s importance:

  1. Global engagement is key when dealing with a pandemic that knows no national boundaries. We need to be collaborating in sharing information and resources on the ground.
  2. Providing specific analysis and insights that are truly global or country specific: we need to get a better understanding of the issues and perspectives from different countries where the realities look very different from what is happening in the US.
  3. Diverse and real time data is essential to decision making. Populating the Pandemic Data Room (PDR) with robust and real time data and conducting rapid analysis will help us understand how the picture is evolving on the ground. Compiling, organizing and sharing a diverse set of data sources will allow those with key questions or data needs with a place to find answers.
  4. Accurate information on specific countries: in this age of disinformation, it is important to have accurate and real time information.
  5. Developing a ‘crowd’ of data scientists around the world and engaging them in helping better understand how to manage the pandemic. This combined effort encourages more analysis and exposure to the data that is already being collected.

We still have a lot to understand about how social behavior and social distancing worked.

Some key questions that need to be explored further:

  • What are the risk factors on the ground?
  • How will a countries’ institutional and public health capacity impact the containment of Covid 19?
  • The COVID-19 disease burden in any country based on its economy, security etc. and any projections;
  • Understanding which populations are at greater risk than others.
  • How can existing development programs, especially those targeting the most vulnerable populations, adapt and continue to meet their objectives?


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