MyData and Coronavirus

Check out the quote below overheard by Doc Searls, my co-conspirator at Customer Commons. That’s spot on…. And it points towards things that need to be built before the next virus shows up; things for the common good. What we are see-ing now around Covid 19 is the best that can be done when you only have access to top-down, macro data and a very small amount of actual evidence. And that actual evidence is usually coming in too late to drive targeted action.

The market for bullshit drops to zero

So what we are see-ing now is macro analytics doing the best it can – and a whole load of bullshit filling the gaps, driving panic buying and causing shortages.

It’s been clear for weeks now that the whole Coronavirus problem is a perfect and massive use case for how top down population level data needs to be complemented with bottom up person level data. That’s ‘MyData’ if you will, given that the emergence of that new capability is recognised in the new EU data strategy. Or to be more technical, we need intelligence and actionable insights at ‘the edge’, i.e. with data, tools and located in the hands of the people to complement that which can be gleaned at the aggregate level by health authorities, governments et al. And then appropriate insights and aggregations come back from the edge to the central/ top down bodies to be blended into top down data and insights and better inform the individual.

I’ve put together an example of what i’m talking about below; the key components in this quick prototype are:

1. Decentralised identity – to avoid huge, dangerous databases of highly sensitive data; and enable verified claims to be utilised where appropriate.

2. Volunteered personal information, gathered, used, shared and aggregated voluntarily under a robust information sharing agreement

3. Personal algorithms – i’m defining Personal Algorithms (Palgorithms) as those algorithms that are ‘on my side’, which are completely transparent, and which an individual engages themselves rather than the more common profiling by second or third parties.

4. A data commons/ trust run by appropriate entities with the relevant skills

5. A full audit log to keep the various actors aligned with their scope

6. Privacy by design to ensure data minimisation, transparency and limit downstream problems

This screenshot shows what data might be shareable (screenshot updated 15th March with new data fields as needs become clearer).

Real software, illustrative data fields

This screenshot shows the audit log

Clearly this prototype, and evolutions of it, won’t be ready to help too much in the current Coronavirus outbreak and its massive consequences. But almost certainly there will be more – because of the nature of this and similar viruses, and the inter-connectedness of our global economy.

To the specifics of the data that could be gathered, in this example it is just some assumptions on my behalf about the type and sources of data that an individual with the right tools can bring to bear when the focus arises. That is to say, when the issue is one of life and death, an individual has extreme self-interest in a situation, so gathering some data should not be an issue.

Without the above we continue to look for hundreds of thousands of needles in 7 billion haystacks. But maybe crazy times can drive edge based solutions more quickly than we have been accustomed to.

Update 11th March – I’ve just noticed this fabulous Tableau data-set and analytics resource on Covid 19. Good as it is, it serves to remind that what i’m talking about above would add a new column called something like ‘pipeline’ which can only come from bottom-up/ human centric data, and also more granularity (data fields) into the existing columns to help identify further useful analyses.

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