Big Data COVID 19- Between the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, our ability to understand the effects of infectious diseases has increased exponentially. Networked personal devices and automated sensors are now ubiquitous, not to mention communications technologies like the internet that allow us to share information almost instantaneously. These devices provide us with copious “big data” on people’s movement, the environment, economic trends and more.
These new data – collected from an estimated 9.8 billion mobile phones, 2,200 satellites and more than 25 billion other digital sensors – are documenting the radical shifts in social and economic activities happening in response to the coronavirus pandemic. People are significantly changing their behavior, and the impacts are not affecting everyone equally.
Big data can help us not only understand the crisis and get back to normal, but create a new, better normal. Here are some early trends emerging that can inform long-term policy responses:
Parks Take on New Importance
Anonymized data from mobile phones, smart devices and applications show how mobility patterns changed in response to COVID-19 lockdowns. Travel plummeted, including in private vehicles, public transit and other transport modes. In many cities, the data show that travel over that past few months has been 60-90% below normal for this time of year. Lockdowns are also affecting where people spend their time. Because of drastic declines in visits to other destinations, parks are now the most durably popular non-residential destinations, though use varies considerably by country and city.
Activity in parks remains near or just below normal for this time of year in places like Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, where safe outdoor recreation is largely encouraged and mobility restrictions are less severe than in other nations. In South Korea, activity in parks is well above average.
In other places, national and local governments have closed parks to prevent contagion. In Brazil, Italy and India, activity in parks has been actively discouraged and declined much more.
The data illustrate just how valuable green space is to many residents at this time of crisis, especially those in urban areas. And it reinforces the need for and health benefits of sufficient, accessible public parks and forested areas. For example, research found that urban trees in the United States could yield $25 million in savings just in air pollution-related health care costs and lost work days. The benefits of and need for ample green spaces should be factored into post-COVID urban planning.