New Report Assessing the Use of Non-Traditional Data During a Pandemic Crisis Released

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  • Officials increasingly called for the use of NTD to answer questions where and when traditional data such as surveys and case data were not sufficient or could not be leveraged. However, the collection and use of traditional data was often needed to validate insights.
  • NTD sources were primarily used to understand populations’ health, mobility (or physical movements), economic activity, and sentiment of the pandemic. In comparison with previous dynamic crises, COVID-19 was a watershed moment in terms of access to and re-use of non-traditional data in those four areas.
  • The majority of NTD initiatives were fragmented and uncoordinated, reflecting the larger fragmented COVID-19 response. Many projects were focused on responding to COVID-19 after outbreaks occurred. This pattern reflected an overall lack of preparedness for the pandemic and need for the rapid development of initiatives to address its consequences.
  • NTD initiatives frequently took the form of cross-sectoral data partnerships or collaborations developed to respond to specific needs. Many institutions did not have the systems and infrastructure in place for these collaborations to be sustainable.
  • Many of the NTD initiatives involving granular, personal data were implemented without the necessary social license to do so–leading to public concerns about ethics and hindering public trust in non-traditional data.
  1. Increasing evidence and awareness about the value proposition of NTD: There is a need for a stronger evidence base that can generate awareness of current NTD practices and support the value proposition of NTD during crisis situations. Creating a more data-driven approach to using NTD (that is, having more data about how to use data) can broaden NTD initiatives and ensure they can grow beyond pilot programs and proofs of concept during future crises.
  2. Advancing trust, ethics, and equity within NTD initiatives: There is a need for public and private organizations to establish trust among parties and with society on how NTD is being used. Prioritizing trust, ethics, and equity at the start of and throughout NTD initiatives can increase the legitimacy of its use and more meaningfully resolve crisis-driven challenges based on a combination of NTD and lived experience.
  3. Strengthening collaboration and institutionalization of NTD uses: There is a need for multi-stakeholder partnerships to increase the data capacity and speed of implementation of NTD initiatives in a systematic way. Institutionalizing internal professional functions and external partnerships through data stewards can accelerate the use of NTD during crises.
  4. Preventing fragmentation, and improving readiness and coordination: There is a need for a more coordinated approach–across all crisis management efforts and functions–to address needs both as health systems evolve and as institutions face future public health emergencies. Minimizing fragmentation has the potential to increase readiness for future dynamic crises.

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