Pandemics are shocks to communities throughout the world. Each community’s response emerges from the countless changes that individuals make in their daily lives to protect themselves while trying to maintain a semblance of normality.
Grassroots responses often emerge first in such crises, but they may not be the most effective approach for slowing the contagion’s spread. From a technological standpoint, solutions invariably involve various blends of remote collaboration, contactless transactions, and replacement of manual processes with automated, robotic, and other human-free processes.
When a contagion is raging, grassroots responses can be counterproductive if everybody’s operating at cross-purposes. Lack of central coordination can confuse the situation for everybody, stoking a panic-driven infodemic that social media can exacerbate, drowning out guidance from public health officials and other reliable sources. To ensure effective orchestration of community-wide responses to a contagion, there is no substitute for authoritative data analytics to drive effective responses at all levels of society.
Going forward, we can expect to see more data-driven, top-down orchestration of pandemic preparedness and remediation among public, private, and nonprofit organizations. China’s experience is instructive in this regard. Though the outbreak’s inception in Wuhan was less than half a year ago, the country has responded rapidly with a top-down, nationwide approach to manage the crisis. Chinese authorities are orchestrating vast resources to save lives, control the spread of infection, and guide individuals for testing, treatment, and quarantining.
In contrast, the United States and other nations seem to be responding to the emergency in a chaotic, bottom-up fashion. The key elements in China’s response are impressive. Leveraging sophisticated data analytics and other digital tools, it has responded to COVID-19 through: