by Ryan Taylor & David Janes

We have learned through our work at Consensas that data can profoundly improve livelihoods and reduce conflict. We also believe it can save lives.

As technologists, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted Canada’s lack of national, standardized, objective health intelligence for citizens and researchers alike.

As Canadian citizens, we recognized that there was a correlation between our mounting uncertainty due to reporting accuracy and the conflicting interpretations of public and undisclosed-public datasets.

In response, the Consensas team launched the COVID-19 Open Data project to improve personal and public decision-making by normalizing all available public health data. The project includes source data from various regional academic or public data initiatives, News, websites, PDFs, office documents, and social media.

Traceability is key. Should information be removed or redacted, Consensas retains attribution for investigation.

The Consensas team adds value by normalizing information and giving it structure. Structured data is more usable for visualization, analysis or secondary machine processing.

To demonstrate how Open Data can be collected and analyzed, Consensas regularly publishes visualizations using Google, open-source data on GitHub, and newsletters (archive).

Open Data initiatives can put knowledge into the hands of the public; more conspiratorial views suggest placation or obfuscation of facts. What we’ve dared to demonstrate is the need for trust. Citizen analysis of (anonymized) COVID-19 intelligence can supplement the resources of public health agencies and governments during an emergency by developing alternative interpretations, diversify analysts, improve emergent pattern recognition, and promote stakeholder engagement to dispel misinformation.

We propose that normalizing data has the potential to make a government’s decisions more democratic and transparent. Improving civic-trust can improve citizen confidence in decisions, increase analytical capabilities, and improve compliance in a crisis. In other words, it could save lives.

The Consensas COVID-19 newsletter

Read the past Consensas COVID-19 newsletters.

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