How open data can help lift COVID-19 lockdown

How open data can help lift COVID-19 lockdown

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed our perception of reality and the way we relate to it (professionally, socially, as a community, etc.). Open data comes to help us adopt new habits. We tell you how to do it.

Under this new scenario to which we will have to adapt progressively, open data are part of a set of tools and procedures that will help us to better understand and interact with our new environment.

By making information publicly available not only we will be able to understand the evolution of this health and economic crisis, but also to develop solutions to help us carry out our usual tasks according to the standards set on this new situation.

One of the first steps taken in this regard is launching projects to provide tools to help citizens comply with the rules for a progressive and controlled lockdown exit plan.

Open Government against COVID-19

Open Government measures have been implemented as a result of the pandemic, many of which can be grouped according to the following criteria established by the Open Government Partnership:

  • Initiatives led by communities, such as volunteers, community associations, clergy, teachers or others who help inform the public about risks and necessary actions.
  • Participatory disaster response strategies, including working with civil society and citizens
  • Measures to build trust between the government and citizens, through reliable communications and focusing on reaching the most vulnerable communities.
  • Measures directed towards making forecasting models and data more transparent, which are influencing government strategies.
  • Digital platforms or applications for keeping citizens informed, enabling public participation and/or offering open data.
  • Measures for the provision of digital public services.
  • Measures related to the protection of personal data rights and privacy
  • Those measures intended both to address and remove disinformation.
  • Proactive measures to publish information for affected communities, including economic and social support
How open data can help lift COVID-19 lockdown

Open data initiatives during COVID-19

Governments, institutions and citizens have turned to creating Open Government action plans related to COVID-19, many of which related to Open Data some way.

Since covering all of them in one article would be impossible, we will only mention a few of them at national, international, regional and local level.

Analysis of the situation for lockdown exit strategy

Naturally, in order to define and deal with deconfinement measures, the most important statistics on the spread of the disease must first be known in depth, so we must consider geographical, demographic and temporal variables.

In Europe, the European Commission has launched a web portal for scientists studying COVID-19. They will be able to access and provide information on the disease, such as DNA sequences, protein entries, clinical, pre-clinical and epidemiological results, etc.

The EU Open Data Portal also has datasets publicly available and published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which contain information on the geographical spread of the disease and its epidemiological curve, which are updated on a daily basis.

With respect to private initiatives, many companies have focused their work on the fight against COVID-19. Many of which have made data publicly available for this purpose. This has led to initiatives such as Corona Data Scraper, which summarizes different cases from all over the world with the lowest possible granularity.

If we focus on the Spanish situation, we can highlight the effort being made by the autonomous communities in making the data on the spread of the disease publicly available.

For example, the Regional Government of Castile and Leon offers on its open data portal information on hospitalised, deceased and cured patients from different hospitals, sorted by province or timeline.

Solutions to adapt to deconfinement and assess its effectiveness

All this information is logically essential when designing lockdown exit plans as well as when setting up guidelines on how to proceed in the different phases that have been established. Going a step further, this is also useful for creating solutions that make it easier for us to adjust and comply with these measures.

One example is found on this web app based on the Madrid City Council’s open data, which allows us to plan routes to ensure and maintain appropriate social distancing.

This tool is based on measuring the width of the streets of the Spanish capital, sorting them by colour based on the possibility of keeping distances when walking with someone under the established rules. In addition, this is also useful for the authorities to determine the best areas to park bicycles, motorcycles, to locate terraces, etc.

In terms of assessing the effectiveness of the measures to be taken for lockdown exit, the Urban Observatory of the University of Newcastle has created a control panel which measures the impact of lockdown in this city, including road traffic and pedestrian flow variables. To do so, they use Smart City technologies.

Since its creation, open data has always provided value for the improvement of society as well as to scientific and technological progress, but today it has turned out to be essential during this health crisis.

This moves us to continue working even harder to improve and develop solutions to encourage and enhance the way information is made available to the public, thereby allowing companies and individuals both to reuse and boost it. And, of course, we will keep you updated on the latest developments.

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