Data + Covid

Workshop on the Data Politics of Pandemics

Update: This event has now passed. Please watch the recording.

25 November @ 10am GMT / 11a WAT / 1pm EAT 

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During pandemics, good quality data can be invaluable in informing the policies of local, national, and international actors. Although ‘indicators’ and ‘metrics’, which attempt to numerically describe the progress of specific diseases, often appear to have a neutral quality, in reality they are inherently political. Because the political stakes are high during pandemics, the collection and/or publication of accurate data may be undermined by several factors, including an interest in downplaying the severity of the outbreak to make the government appear more competent, a desire to avoid stigma, or a prioritisation of economic interests. The result is often that many infected people are left uncounted or underreported. The prevalence of misinformation during pandemics exacerbates this situation, as do government censorship measures, including invoking laws on sharing false news and misinformation. In addition to this, most African states lack the resources required to scale up testing to deal sufficiently with a pandemic. This not only leaves gaps in coverage but also introduces reliance on international donors, raising questions about sovereignty and the direction of accountability. Data is also increasingly being used in a variety of responses to pandemics, including contact-tracing and more general forms of surveillance, leading to much debate about privacy. These concerns are exacerbated since digital tracking and location data collection are often hastily introduced, with limited precedent and oversight. The pressing need to contain pandemics should not prevent caution regarding the potential for big data to have negative impacts.

This event will start 10:00 UK time, 13:00 EAT and 11:00 WAT, and is expected to last 90 minutes. The event will be digitally recorded.

Platform and access

This event will run on Zoom Webinar. Registered attendees will receive links for access to each session; the necessary links will be available in the confirmation emails as well as in reminder emails in the same week as the workshop. If you are registered but haven’t received the confirmation and reminder emails, please check email filters (for example junk filters). For security reasons, you must have (or create) an eventbrite account in order to access the login details. Technical information about attending a Zoom event is available on the Zoom website.