Covid-19 Data Cards:

Building a Data Taxonomy for Pandemic Preparedness

Open Data Charter
Feb 24 · 5 min read

“We cannot define the needs of our collective future based only on a particular point of view. We need a mix between different kinds of cultures and perspectives when we are building standards, or having conversations around data that will affect the rest of the world. ” — Juan Pane, CDS and Lead Data Analyst for ODC and CAF’s Data Taxonomy for Pandemic Preparedness, in an interview with Open Data Charter.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is yet another wake up call on the importance of high quality, interoperable data spaces to make collective decisions for the common good.“ Enrique Zapata, Principal Specialist for Data Intelligence at CAF.

Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

Open data can help repair and harmonize what the world was ill-equipped to handle in 2020 — the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, alongside other signatories, the Open Data Charter signed GovLab’s Call for Action that urged “the development of data infrastructure and an ecosystem capable of tackling the pandemic and other dynamic threats”. At the same time, CAF — Development Bank of Latin America began a regional and global effort to support the creation of common and interoperable data spaces to support reuse for value creation. In this regard, it has been clear that life threatening decisions have been made based on “imperfect and incomplete” data and a lack of consistency around its management. With that in mind, we set out to launch a collaboration to identify high value data in a pandemic and engage with local communities around the globe to understand their data needs (see here, here and here). Building on these lessons, together with CDS and with support from CAF, we have started to lay the beginnings of data classification needed to be ready for future public health crises.

Open Data Standards to Repair and Regain Public Trust

Data standards can restore public confidence in governments and regulators. A recent editorial piece by the international journal of science, Nature highlighted this, particularly in the case of a vaccine data rollout in a world where vaccine misinformation is on the rise: “By assessing the same data, regulators could more easily compare their findings and analyses with those of others, and their decisions would not only be more robust, but also be seen to be more robust..”

Opening up data and using standardized datasets and variables creates interoperability, which then enables pandemic data to be analyzed and used efficiently. It also enables the global cooperation needed to accelerate learning and discoveries that can help governments and institutions be better equipped to react and repair the damage caused by a pandemic. A global data standardization is not only needed to restore public confidence and global collaboration, it is also a key aspect of recovery.

Building the Pandemic Data Cards Together: Calling Data Practitioners and Users

We want to initiate the repair of the public’s trust through the building of a Pandemic Data Taxonomy with you — a network of data users and practitioners.

Building on feedback we got from our call to identify high value Open COVID-19 Data, we have structured a set of data cards, including key data types related to health issues, legal and socioeconomic impacts and fiscal transparency, within which are well-defined data models and dictionaries. Our target audience for this data taxonomy are governments. We are hoping this framework is a starting point towards building greater consistency around pandemic data release, and flag areas for better cooperation and standardisation within and between our governments and communities around the world.

We hope that together, with the input and feedback from a diverse group of data users and practitioners, we can have at the end of this public consultation and open-call, a document by a global collective, one that we can present to governments and public servants for their buy-in to reform our data infrastructures to be better prepared for future outbreaks.

In order to analyze the variables necessary to manage and investigate the different aspects of a pandemic, as exemplified by COVID-19, and based on a review of the type of data being released by 25 countries — we categorised the data in 4 major categories:

  • General — Contains the general concepts that all the files have in common and are defined, such as the METADATA, global sections of RISKS and their MITIGATION and the general STANDARDS required for the use, management and publication of the data. Then, a link to a spreadsheet, where more details of the precision, update frequency, publication methods and specific standards of each data set are defined.

How do you think data for pandemic preparedness should be published?

As a data practitioner, please take a look at what we have and add comments directly to this document (or this version in Spanish), if you think there are variables missing or things we have overlooked. We would love to hear from all of you all over the world. Please feel free to share it with your network. This public consultation will be open until March 31st.

If you have any questions or would like to connect to collaborate around this work, e-mail us at or send us a message via our Twitter account: @opendatacharter.


Towards a culture of open and responsible data use by governments and citizens.

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