The COVID-19 crisis has had unprecedented impacts in terms of public action, and the face of social and economic activity across the globe. The pandemic continues to strike at countries at very different levels of development, and vulnerability. Vulnerability to COVID-19 has not been limited to the ability of health care systems to treat the virus. Rather it has revealed the need for a far wider set of measures to protect quality of life and prosperity across both urban and rural settings.
While unprecedented in this generation, the COVID-19 is a manifestation of a whole spectrum of shocks and risks to which modern societies are increasingly exposed to. The COVID-19 has stretched the ability (and sometimes initial imagination) of leaders and communities across the world to initially response, but increasingly also to address the medium and longer term challenges of recovery and resilience. While many agree that COVID-19 means that the future will be different, it is not at all clear what the “new normals” will look like. As the virus has seen a restriction of physical interactions, digital exchanges and business continuity have for many gained in prominence.
The objective of the COVID-19 Big Data Observatory is to demonstrate how non-conventional digital data sources can help address the real-world challenges of response, recovery, and resilience. On the one hand, many countries are faced with a scarcity to traditional administrative and statistical data to track COVID-19 public actions and their impact in a timely fashion. On the other, countries are overwhelmed by flood of new data, termed by some an infodemic of fake news. This is now especially acute for settings that are data-driven evidence poor. Building more informed responses to COVID-19 type crisis for local stakeholders requires greater awareness, access, and ability to timely and actionable insights provided by the big data revolution.