Unconventional data, unprecedented insights: leveraging non-traditional data during a pandemic

Paper by Kaylin Bolt et al: “The COVID-19 pandemic prompted new interest in non-traditional data sources to inform response efforts and mitigate knowledge gaps. While non-traditional data offers some advantages over traditional data, it also raises concerns related to biases, representativity, informed consent and security vulnerabilities. This study focuses on three specific types of non-traditional data: mobility, social media, and participatory surveillance platform data. Qualitative results are presented on the successes, challenges, and recommendations of key informants who used these non-traditional data sources during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain and Italy….

Non-traditional data proved valuable in providing rapid results and filling data gaps, especially when traditional data faced delays. Increased data access and innovative collaborative efforts across sectors facilitated its use. Challenges included unreliable access and data quality concerns, particularly the lack of comprehensive demographic and geographic information. To further leverage non-traditional data, participants recommended prioritizing data governance, establishing data brokers, and sustaining multi-institutional collaborations. The value of non-traditional data was perceived as underutilized in public health surveillance, program evaluation and policymaking. Participants saw opportunities to integrate them into public health systems with the necessary investments in data pipelines, infrastructure, and technical capacity…(More)”.

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