Blog / Leadership & Transformation

No Turning Back On Open Data

Open data has become the cornerstone of the worldwide response and counterattack to the pandemic. Hildebrand Salvat, professor, or our Master's in Global Smart City Manager program, gives this short overview of what we have learned so far about the use of data in a crisis management situation. Never before have we had so much data available so quickly. This is also the first time that society as a whole is claiming to have control over this data. Recently we have also witnessed how these open data of the health offices of the different countries,  has been processed, modeled and visualized by companies, organizations, scientists and individuals to facilitate understanding by the public. And also, how this data can be used by companies to identify opportunities or to take precautions against the pandemic.Open data is one of the main axes of the new paradigm of governance of the democracies of the 21st century and of the smart cities, accompanied by citizen participation, transparency and collaboration. Among the basic principles of open data is that "only that which should be restricted is restricted". Administrations should publish as much as possible. But that data should also be opened as soon as possible and in time to be useful and relevant. The information must be provided in a structured way so that it can be read by other programs (a list incorporated in a text or a pdf is not valid).Given the health crisis, we have been forced to tackle over the last few months, the following considerations regarding data and their evaluation must be made: Quality data. For analysis, comparisons, developments, we need quality data, ie that the various administrations provide correct data on cases, mortality, etc. Many countries have had to adjust the series because the cases were not properly counted. In addition, achieving maximum comparability should be set as one of the main goals. In some countries, only confirmed COVID19 cases are counted, in other, deaths in old people's homes are not counted, some countries may have clear misinformation strategies. As a result, at this point, we can't speak about comparability as such. If we have poor quality data, we will never be able to make correct analyses and we will not have good information: garbage in, garbage out. Key indicators. What are the indicators that allow for proper comparison? As the pandemic became more widespread, key indicators have been identified and others have been discontinued. It has been observed that the number of registered cases in each country could underestimate the reality of the epidemic. So the number of severe cases or the number of deaths, always depending on the number of inhabitants, has become relevant. Data for decision making. The appearance of the pandemic in China in January was not taken seriously by most countries and the preventive decisions that could have controlled it in the early stages were not taken. Moreover, we have seen how country after country has been slow to react when the data from otheras left little room for doubt. If there is one thing the data must be useful for, it is to make better decisions. Complex reality. The pandemic has to make us understand that most human processes are not that simple at all. There is no single variable that can explain the greater or lesser severity of the pandemic in a given country: its economy, the mobility of its citizens, the climate, social relations, its health system. Nor can it be simplified when the false trade-off between health and economy is put on the decision-making table. The data and the technical knowledge of the different experts in each branch are not sufficient, as there is a high degree of uncertainty about the effects of each decision.

Find out more about data in cities and potential projects! 

Hildebrand Salvat Professor of the Master's in Global Smart City Manager Founder of CERES


Zigurat Global Institute of Technology