Technology and Data

As governments work to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, technology and data solutions are proving to be some of the most powerful tools at their disposal for tracking cases, coordinating response, and disseminating information quickly and accurately. Below are some examples of how jurisdictions are using technology creatively, effectively, and efficiently.

Harvard Ash Center
Apr 6, 2020 · 17 min read
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The below are listed in order of publication, starting with the most recent. Last updated Thursday, June 18 at 9:46 AM. Postings below do not convey endorsement of any particular organization or opinion contained in links.

Norway to Halt Covid-19 Track and Trace App on Data Protection Concerns

Norway will halt its COVID-19 track and trace app and delete all data collected so far after criticism from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) said on Monday.

To Grasp Who’s Dying Of Covid-19, Look To Social Factors Like Race

The MIT researchers’ key finding is that the underlying reasons for the link between race and death rate are not the usual suspects.

Shifting to Remote Service Delivery: Top Five Tips for Practitioners

Here are MDRC’s Top Five Tips for social service and educational programs adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. These guidelines can help ensure staff members’ and participants’ personal safety so that agencies can continue providing high-quality services and support while working remotely. They also include guidance on protecting participant confidentiality and keeping sensitive personal information secure.

Tracking Gender Data on COVID-19

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting men and women differently and that gender roles shape pandemic responses. Now, thanks to volunteer efforts via “Global Health 50/50,” new data are revealing its true impact on men and women around the world.

Accurate Data In, Better Insights Out

The coronavirus pandemic has propelled data into the headlines, but it has also shown the challenges of dealing with incomplete and inaccurate datasets.

Mind The Gap: Affordable Internet Vital For Coronavirus Recovery

As lockdowns lift but social-distancing rules remain, more services and businesses will continue to go digital.

Inside The Race To Map The Coronavirus

Public health and academic laboratories across the country are mapping tens of thousands of genetic sequences of the coronavirus in a first-of-its-kind effort to track the way the virus is spreading and mutating.

How The World Can Avoid Screwing Up The Response To Covid-19 Again

STAT asked 11 experts in infectious disease, epidemiology, and pandemic preparedness how to avoid mistakes, poor decisions, and incompetence if and when there is a resurgence of coronavirus in the coming months.

Singapore Considers Wearable Tech Devices For All to Trace Virus

Singapore is working on a contact tracing method that would involve a portable wearable device that could be distributed to everyone in the country.

Who owns the virus? Pandemic sparks debate on data sharing

The question of who owns scientific data has come under scrutiny during the coronavirus crisis.

Critical Update: National Labs Pivoted to Help Fight COVID-19. Here’s How.

Federal insiders offer a glimpse of how the global health care crisis sparked a new wave of multi-sector collaboration.

In The Fight Against Covid-19 Data Gaps Are Costing Lives

All too often, data is poor quality, out of date, or incomplete — and that can be fatal.

Using Data for COVID-19 Requires New and Innovative Governance Approaches

“Decision Provenance” Allows Us to Establish Data Accountability and Responsibility across the Data Life Cycle.

Fighting COVID-19 Using Data Science

NIEHS-funded researchers develop online tools to better understand the spread of the novel coronavirus.

New York Delivers 10,000 Tablets To Elderly To Close Digital Divide

New York City agencies have begun distributing 10,000 internet-connected devices to elderly residents in an effort to close the city’s digital divide, the size of which has been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic closing many in-person government services this year.

Will COVID-19 Cause Long-Term Tech Changes for Courts?

Tech experts who work with county court systems have implemented a number of changes to help the justice system continue to function in the time of COVID-19, and some of those changes may become permanent.

Data Is the Story: The Crucial Role State CDOs Play in Pandemic Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic affects each state differently, but data is a valuable asset and state Chief Data Officers are taking on increasingly central roles as the crisis evolves.

NIH Wants Digital Health Technologies To Contain Coronavirus

With areas across the United States starting to reopen, the National Institutes of Health wants digital health technologies to protect against another spread.

In Second Health Crisis Of His Tenure, Revere, MA’s Mayor Taps New Tech

Mayor Brian Arrigo’s administration, which oversaw the worst of the opioid epidemic, now faces another health crisis: COVID-19. This time, they brought in Soofa to aid residents through the newest scourge.

Covid-19 Stimulates Adoption Of Smart Cities: 4 European Capitals Already Redefining ‘New’ Future Of Urban Living

The tech ecosystem in Europe is flourishing making it a role model for the rest of the world. European cities have better public transit, a stronger focus on low CO2 emissions and sustainability, a larger population interested in walking and cycling, and much more that lead to both smarter and sustainable cities.

Veterans Affairs Launches First Chatbot to Field COVID-19 Questions

The bot was developed and deployed via Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot platform.

FTC Housecleaning Highlights Health Data Rule that Could Be More Relevant During the Pandemic

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking comment on a decade-old rule that has never been enforced.

Federal Data Strategy Deadlines Shift Due to COVID-19

The team prioritized some items for the pandemic response but extended other deadlines.

FDA, Partnering With New York Health Tech Firm, Seeks To Collect ‘Real-World’ Data On Covid-19

The project is a collaboration with Aetion, a New York health tech startup that specializes in real-world evidence.

Federal Legislation To Protect Health Data Has Made Little Progress. Will That Change In The Covid-19 Era?

The pandemic has fueled fresh scrutiny of health data privacy among lawmakers, who have introduced several bills in recent weeks to protect patient data.

State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up

The CDC has quietly started releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.

Need Help With Covid-19 Tech? This Nonprofit Connects Volunteers with Governments

The U.S. Digital Response, a new nonprofit, dispatches tech-sector volunteers to assist governments with coronavirus-related projects.

A County Expands Internet Access with Remote WiFi Hotspots

By boosting WiFi internet signals at government buildings, New Castle County in Delaware is providing residents places to log on for free in parking lots.

How Louisiana Rapidly Scaled Pilot Solutions to Combat COVID-19

Finding innovative ways to bring client voices into systems change

4 Ways To Weave Resiliency, Tech Into City Recovery Plans

In an IEEE-hosted webinar, smart city consultants detailed best practices and frameworks for prioritizing resiliency amid COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Argonne Gets New Supercomputing Cluster to Power Further COVID-19 Vaccine and Drug Research

The national laboratory received NVIDIA nodes to boost performance as researchers work on new methods of testing, treating and monitoring coronavirus patients.

Agencies Lean Into Automation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Robotic process automation is accelerating across the National Institutes of Health, Internal Revenue Service and Housing and Urban Development Department.

Study Offers Cross-Industry Innovation in the COVID-19 Fight

A study envisioning how societies might address the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, undertaken by more than 70 leaders in innovation from around the globe.

Remote Data Collection On Violence Against Women During Covid-19: A Conversation With Experts On Ethics, Measurement & Research Priorities

Violence against women is a priority global concern especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting survivors during this time requires understanding the characteristics and magnitude of violence and effectiveness of responses — for which we need rigorous research. Researchers are well positioned to contribute to policy dialogue, drawing both on past evidence to inform critical pandemic responses, as well as studying dynamics as they unfold to inform real-time decisions and future pandemics.

Which Covid-19 Data Can You Trust?

Whether you’re a CEO, a consultant, a policymaker, or just someone who is trying to make sense of what’s going on, it’s essential to be able to sort the good data from the misleading — or even misguided.

How Data, Analytics, and Technology Are Helping Us Fight Covid-19

A variety of technologies are enabling public health officials to track potentially infected individuals, enforce quarantine measures, create community-wide awareness about the virus, and plan coordinated responses to deal with resource shortages.

Pentagon Task Force Turns to Data to Shape COVID-19 Response

The group aims to determine potential risks to the Defense Department and mission readiness through quality data and models.

Washington State’s New Restaurant Regulations Put Diner Data On The Menu

Restaurants able to reopen for table service will be required to store diners’ names and phone numbers as part of Washington’s COVID-19 contact-tracing efforts.

How State Department IT Was Set Up to Deal with COVID-19

State Department CIO Stuart McGuigan joins Critical Update to talk about his vision for the agency and how the department’s decentralized nature made for an easy transition to mass telework.

Battling The ‘Pandemic of Misinformation’

Ubiquity of social media has made it easier to spread or even create COVID-19 falsehoods, making the work of public health officials harder

India Is Forcing People To Use Its Covid App, Unlike Any Other Democracy

Millions of Indians have no choice but to download the country’s tracking technology if they want to keep their jobs or avoid reprisals.

IBM Highlights 3 Top Solutions To Support Covid-19 Response

IBM unveiled for the first time the top solutions on the COVID-19 track of its 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge.

Real-time Data To Address Real-time Problems

Harvard-developed tool lets policymakers base their economic decisions on fresh information.

India’s Covid-19 Contact Tracing App Could Leak Patient Locations

The system’s use of GPS data could let hackers pinpoint who reports a positive diagnosis.

These ZIP Code-Level Maps Show The Places Hit Hardest By COVID-19

An analysis of five major cities by BuzzFeed News found that ZIP codes with more cases per person tended to be lower income, have more elderly residents, and be communities of color.

US, UK Cyber Authorities Warn State-Backed Hackers Are After COVID-19 Treatment Data

Attackers use password spraying tools to target pharmaceutical and research organizations.

Tackling Coronavirus Hotspots In City Slums Hindered By Lack Of Data

Lack of data on urban slums is making it harder to track the coronavirus, identify those at risk and provide relief

Q&A: COVID-19 Means we Must Innovate Data Collection, Especially on Gender

Data is important in ensuring gender equality, and experts say as traditional means of data collection may no longer be possible under the current COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, this provides an opportunity to collect data in more innovative ways.

What Steak-umm’s Twitter Feed Can Teach City Leaders About Data

The Steak-umm account’s persona champions data and research to bat down conspiracies as it fights for a reality-based world.

Telework Programs At Dod Could Stick Around After Coronavirus

The DoD rapidly expanded its network capabilities to handle mass telework

States Are Warming Up To New Technologies During Pandemic, CIOs Say

The coronavirus pandemic has introduced many new challenges for states, but several state chief information officers said they believe the widespread transition to remote work and other disruptions caused by the crisis present opportunities to advance technology’s role in state government.

CDC Forms Group to Share COVID-19 Sequencing Data

The CDC is bringing together public and private laboratories, universities, corporations, and health agencies to share research about how the coronavirus is spreading across the nation.

How Americans See Digital Privacy Issues Amid The Covid-19 Outbreak

Ten key findings from a Pew Research Center survey of Americans views of digital privacy, including their response to privacy concerns during the pandemic.

Sacramento Asks Its Innovators To Respond To Covid-19

The Californian city has created an online portal to find the best ideas for how it can use technology and innovation to meet the challenges brought by the pandemic.

Feds Can Now Spot The Signs Of Pandemic Phishing

Several agencies told Fifth Domain they’ve seen changes in phishing attempts against their employees.

Lifesaving Ventilators Will Sit Unused Without A National Data-sharing Effort

Recommendations for using collective buying agreements, open data, and transparency to prevent unnecessary stockpiling that keeps ventilators from getting to areas where they’re most needed.

A Scramble for Virus Apps That Do No Harm

Several tracking apps are in development, using GPS and Bluetooth technology to identify individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to track the spread of the virus and warn people to isolate; yet there are privacy concerns about the tracking capabilities. Tech companies, universities, and other countries are working on how to mitigate that concern.

How Data Science Can Ease the COVID-19 Pandemic

Experts say that data science has the capability to identify the level of virus activity that can be tolerated in an area, given regional health system capacity, and adjust population distancing accordingly.

Microbe Mappers Are Tracking Covid-19’s Invisible Traces

Microbiologists are swabbing high-use public areas such as ATMs, subways, and hospitals in order to collect data to better understand the virus’ transmission dynamics and hopefully help governments reopen responsibly.

Mayor Breed Announces Release Of Bay Area’s First Detailed Coronavirus Alternative Housing Program Data Tracker

San Francisco’s COVID-19 Data Tracker now displays daily updated information about the city’s efforts to provide temporary alternative housing for priority vulnerable populations, critical frontline workers, and individuals directly affected by the virus.

Above-Average Hurricane Season Could Further Challenge Government’s Pandemic Response

Forecasters have predicted a more severe 2020 hurricane season than usual, which could further exacerbate challenges to states’ as they simultaneously respond to the global health crisis. Experts say that disaster management and big data could help governments plan ahead.

LiDAR Solution to Monitor Social Distancing as Cities Reopen

Anaheim, CA-based company, iinside, created new technology called IQueue SafeDistance, which uses LiDAR sensors placed throughout a building or venue that is able to identify when overcrowding occurs and alert the building manager.

What’s New in Civic Tech: States Build COVID-19 Tracking Apps

Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota have built apps with private-sector tech partners to track the spread of COVID-19 in their regions.

Tech Company Helping to Free Up Capacity in Hospitals in the Fight Against Covid-19

In Ireland, digital healthcare company PatientMPower had designed a system originally to monitor patients with various lung conditions, but now finds itself invaluable as the country battles the new coronavirus. Now in use in all major hospitals in the country, the technology allows COVID-19 patients to be monitored at home this freeing up necessary space in hospitals for more severe cases.

In Utah, Coronavirus Decisions are Fueled by Real-Time Data

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tracks COVID-19’s’ spread and sets benchmarks for when certain parts of the state’s economy can resume from data provided by a dashboard platform created by business-intelligence firm Domo.

Five Things We Need to Do to Make Contact Tracing Really Work

Without federal infrastructure or aid, contract tracing in the United States to fight COVID-19 is left to states, tech companies, and medical workers. Steps such as hiring a robust workforce, protecting privacy, and not solely relying on technology amongst others can help make contract tracing successful.

Republican Lawmakers Propose Bill to Support Government COVID-19 Research Effort

House Republicans recently introduced legislation, the COVID Research Act, to codify a range of federal research efforts countering COVID-19 and strategically boost the government’s technological capabilities to forecast future health threats.

How the Private Sector Helps States and Cities Close the Digital Divide

Cisco Systems and AT&T have stepped forward during the global health pandemic, working with government and local officials ensuring network connectivity for first responders, hospital, government networks, and for students who are now going to school online.

State Web Portals Try to Connect New PPE Producers with Desperate Health Care Providers

States have launched online portals to connect health care providers in urgent need of PPE with businesses who have pivoted to manufacturing PPE but may not know where to donate to.

NASA Engineers Rapidly Create Ventilator Tailored to Treat COVID-19 Patients

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory quickly produced a new ventilator specifically targeted to treat COVID-19 patients with milder symptoms, so that the United States’ limited stock of traditional ventilators can be spared for those with more severe conditions. The device, known as VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), is under review by the FDA for a fast-track emergency use authorization.

St. Louis Launches Portal to Track Coronavirus Expenses

The mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, launched a new financial transparency portal to illustrate the city’s decision-making process during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the city is spending money to improve public health.

EDPB Adopts Guidelines on the Processing of Health Data During COVID-19

On April 21, 2020, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) adopted guidelines on the processing of health data for scientific purposes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NYC Used a ‘No-Code’ Platform to Build its Coronavirus Portal Quickly

New York City used a “no-code” platform to quickly stand up a new web portal on Monday that allows residents to self-report conditions related to the novel coronavirus.

Cities Deploy Rapid Digital Inclusion Efforts Amid Crisis

Cities across the country are trying to get more of their citizens access to the Internet during the COVID-19 crisis, with essential services such as medicine and education moving online as residents stay home.

North Dakota Organizes 3D Printer Owners To Make Face Shields

The North Dakota state government and the Gateway to Science Museum in Bismarck are partnering to match those able to make face shields with 3D printers with organizations seeking supplies.

Self-Reported Symptoms Pave Way for COVID-19 Forecasting

Researchers are gathering self-reported descriptions of COVID-19-related symptoms nationwide with the help of Facebook and GoogleSelf.

EU Data Portal Launches To Support Covid-19 Research

The European Commission has launched a data portal for scientists studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus to speed up access to data sets and tools in order to bolster research efforts by encouraging data reuse and open science.

Austin Launches Coronavirus Testing Enrollment Service

Through a new digital service developed with help from the software company NTT Data, residents of Austin, can now schedule COVID-19 tests, receive health advice and help the city determine which neighborhoods are being hit the hardest by the coronavirus.

APIs To Track Covid-19

Over the past two months, as COVID-19 has proliferated, ProgrammableWeb has been tracking APIs that provide access to data related to the pandemic.

Chicago Uses Anonymized Cellphone Data To Show Progress Of Covid-19 Measures

Chicago residents stayed home nearly 80% of the time last week, according to a new data analysis of cellphone and mobile device movement, collected by health data company BlueDot.

Austin ISD Is Rolling Out 110 Buses Equipped With Wi-Fi For Neighborhoods With Limited Online Access

The Austin Independent School District says it has deployed 110 buses with Wi-Fi to neighborhoods and apartments where home internet access is least likely.

Big Data Could Undermine the Covid-19 Response

As new tracking and contact tracing efforts pop up every day, tech scientists and data officers should be wary not to replicate mistakes from past pandemics, and be mindful of threats to public health and human rights.

Coronavirus Community Response

From the Civic Tech Field Guide, a forum where data and tech officials can crowdsource questions.

An Army of Virus-Tracers Takes Shape in Massachusetts

While contract-tracing apps and tech take off, Massachusetts is relying on a team of people.

How Much Access To Data Should Be Permitted During The Covid-19 Pandemic?

An interview with Urs Grasser of the Berkmen Klein Center for Internet and Society that sheds light on the benefits of using data to address the pandemic, and calls on the federal government to approve comprehensive digital privacy protections.

A Covid-19 Data Lag Might Be Giving Americans False Hope

Daily death tolls are relied upon by citizens and elected officials to conceptualize the progress of the crisis in any given place, but many don’t realize those stats are often incomplete, delayed, or otherwise defective.

Homeland Security Will Use a New Procurement Pilot Program to Fight COVID-19

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in early April that it will utilize a newly established pilot program to procure innovative tools for their COVID-19 response efforts. DHS lists a range of needs including managing the shortage of personal protective equipment to operationalizing logistics to support pandemic response.

Community Connect For COVID-19 Is A Powerful App For Keeping You Safe

By allowing users to enter critical health information as well as safety and logistical information about themselves, their families, and their home, profiles created on this app save time and resources for EMS and other first responders.

How Homeland Security’s Biosurveillance Arm Uses Tech To Track a Pandemic

The National Biosurveillance Integration Center has been tracking coronavirus since January, and is now incorporating new and existing tools in the fight against the virus.

The Crucial Role ‘Innovation Districts’ Will Play In The Fight Against Covid-19

Innovation Districts are already equipped to drive change nimbly and quickly, and their focus on research, tech, and innovative action will only become more important to coronavirus response as time goes on.

Tech’s COVID Response: Stepping Up to Help Governments

A database of software companies offering products and resources to government agencies addressing COVID-19, compiled by Nick Sinai, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Daniel Goldberg (HKS MPP 2019 / HBS MBA 2019) of the Kennedy School.

A Call to American States & Cities Fighting COVID-19: Break Down your Data Silos and Save Lives

Op-Ed by the CEO of Civic Analysis about the importance of inter-agency data sharing in developing response programs.

CISA Offers Ways to Lessen Lag for Teleworkers Without Sacrificing Security

Data security is a top priority for government agencies that have had to rapidly shift to teleworking models, CISA has offered temporary guidelines to help protect federal workers who are prime targets for hackers looking to exploit security vulnerabilities.

A Widening Data Divide: COVID-19 and the Global South

Opinion piece on the disparity between available and actionable data in different countries and the effect this could have on outcomes for poorer countries struggling to meet demand.

Data Responsibility in the COVID-19 Response

A compendium of frequently asked questions for organizations and staff working with data in coronavirus response programs, giving best practices for handling data safely and confidentially.

COVID-19 Privacy & Data Protection Resources

A repository of privacy and data protection resources related to COVID-19, compiled by the Future of Privacy Forum.

What’s New in Civic Tech: Cities Launch COVID-19 Web Portals

New York, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh are among the many cities across the country launching portals this week to help centralize data related to COVID-19 response for city workers and citizens.

Officials Unveil Mobile App to Help with COVID-19 Contact Tracing in North Dakota

North Dakota officials on Tuesday unveiled a free mobile app that will help state residents voluntarily track where they’ve been, information that could be useful to health officials working to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Two Million People Have Given Covid-19 Data to Policymakers — Here’s How

Why an app from Kings College London has been so successful, and what lessons others can learn.

White House Expands Coronavirus-Focused Supercomputing Consortium

Officials are putting high-performance computing resources to work across the country to help combat COVID-19.

The Ethics of Surveillance Technology during a Global Pandemic

Three experts on cyberlaw, security, and AI discuss how governments and businesses might ethically employ surveillance and AI technologies to address Covid-19.

Virtualizing Local Government

A four-part webinar on best practices for bringing government services online and serving citizens during a time of crisis.

Lessons from States that Embraced Telework Before the Coronavirus

What states that are now in the process of ramping up their telework capacity can learn from early-adopters, including pitfalls to avoid to help everything run more smoothly.

From 12 to 12,000: How LA Scaled Up Telework in Two Weeks

An interview with LA’S CIO, Ted Ross, about how he and his team in the Los Angeles City Government scaled up their teleworking resources to allow city employees to work from home en masse.

Google Offers User Location Data to Health Officials Tackling Coronavirus

Providing access and support, Google will allow public health officials to access their user location data, including that gathered from their Google Maps site, in order to study how social distancing measures are working in their jurisdictions.

Kansas Uses Cellphone Location Data Tool to Track COVID-19

The State of Kansas is using anonymized cell phone data on their “social distancing” dashboard to track and intervene where people are congregating during stay-at-home orders.

EU Privacy Watchdog Calls For Pan-European Mobile App For Virus Tracking

A data privacy advisory agency for the EU is calling for the creation of a pan-European virus tracking app to replace the plethora of smaller, nation-based apps that have cropped up in recent weeks, hoping to make data more complete and cohesive and to make privacy agreements and security interventions uniform.

Boston Mayor Keeps City Up to Date on Coronavirus with Tech

The City of Boston has launched two new dashboards to help track the spread of novel coronavirus, one that tracks individual cases in Massachusetts on a day-to-day basis, the other visualizing how big of an impact the virus is having on the city for residents.

COVID-19 Public Sector Resources

A resource center, curated by the Ash Center at Harvard…

COVID-19 Public Sector Resources

A resource center, curated by the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School, for public sector practitioners to highlight cases, teaching, policy solutions, and other examples of how governments are responding to the outbreak

Harvard Ash Center

Written by

Research center and think tank at Harvard Kennedy School. Here to talk about democracy, government innovation, and Asia public policy.

COVID-19 Public Sector Resources

A resource center, curated by the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School, for public sector practitioners to highlight cases, teaching, policy solutions, and other examples of how governments are responding to the outbreak

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