The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm. Major economies are brought to their knees, and lesser developed countries are overwhelmed with desperation. Amidst the global health crisis, governments have put big data to work in the hope of reducing the devastation.
During the early stages of COVID-19, China imposed a draconian lockdown on Wuhan, and subsequently, the entire country. In contrast, the UK has chosen to remain open even after thousands of infections, despite neighboring countries advocating social distancing.
The initial strategy is to allow as many UK citizens to be infected in order to achieve herd immunity. However, the idea was shelved on the 23rd of March, where predictive modeling shows the healthcare capacity will be overwhelmed if the country remains open.
The modeling technique, which relies on voluminous data collected from affected countries and local variables again, influenced the White House's recommendation of social distancing. According to the model, as many as 2 million lives would be saved by shutting down the US.
The heroic effort of the healthcare frontlines and adept use of big data technology has contributed to the success of China, South Korea, and Taiwan in keeping the pandemic under control. By developing contract tracing apps, the respective governments can monitor the movements and health status of the residents.
These apps leverage GPS tracking, cellular information, and data gathered from various databases. By turning to big data, the governments have better control over individuals who are under self-quarantine order as the app will alert the enforcement agencies if the individual leaves his or her home.
South Korea's use of big data goes hand-in-hand with its aggressive testing approach. The government depends on various data sources, such as travel records, GPS, credit cards, and surveillance footage for contract tracing. Besides that, the country launched an app that allows residents to be on the alert if they're within 100 meters to a place visited by COVID-19 patients.
Until a vaccine is developed, the battle with COVID-19 is far from over. Countries that are planning to reopen their countries are banking on big data to identify potential hotspots even after social distancing measures are lifted. Malaysia, which infection rate has plateaued, is developing an app that allows self-assessment to monitor the spread of the disease better.
The onslaught of COVID-19 has spurred scientists worldwide into a race for vaccine and anti-viral drugs. As little is known about the novel coronavirus, scientists are dependent on data from various countries for their research.
Medical researchers are relying on big data simulations to identify potential vaccines and treatment for COVID-19. A team from Dankook University in South Korea has identified atazanavir as a potential drug via a deep-learning simulation model.
Clinical trials are required to ensure that the recommended drugs are effective and safe for humans. Drug manufacturers are banking on access to patients' data to conduct the test in a targeted and secure manner.
WHO has also taken the initiative to rope up various countries to coordinate clinical trials on potential treatments. The 'Solidarity trial' leverages existing data from the participating countries in a bid to reduce the duration of the trials by up to 80%.
Big data has proved to be crucial in the early success of Taiwan, South Korea, and China, and it is indispensable as the world grapples with the pandemic.