• Opening up and sharing information about coronavirus allows the scientific and academic communities to test new strategies to stop the virus.
  • The Open Government Alliance recommends sharing models used to tally cases and make projections.
  • New Zealand - one of the most successful countries in managing the pandemic - has opened up data on the impact of the coronavirus on trade.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the world’s largest ever collective learning exercise. Cooperation, unprecedented on a global scale, has underpinned this dynamic. Perhaps the most obvious is scientific cooperation, with governments and universities opening up and sharing their research. Cities around the world have also been exchanging strategies through international urban cooperation networks, while the alliance between Apple and Google to improve contract tracing apps is perhaps the most unexpected example of collaboration in the private sector.

Opening up and sharing information about coronavirus allows the scientific and academic communities, and professionals from all disciplines, to analyze, compare, and test new hypotheses as the virus progresses. The information is also key to reducing uncertainty and ensuring that more and more people take the necessary precautions. Johns Hopkins University’s global map, built with data reported daily by each country, is a good example of how to visualize data to make it easily understandable. Opening up data is a critical resource for scientists, researchers, and big data experts racing against the clock to help curb the spread of the virus.

Real-time tracking of COVID-19
Real-time tracking of COVID-19
Image: John Hopkins University and ESRI

With respect to governments, the Open Government Alliance, of which Argentina and the City of Buenos Aires are members, recommends sharing the models used to tally cases and make projections. This makes the fundamentals of decision-making visible and allows scientists and experts to analyse and help improve them. At the same time, the Alliance suggests taking other measures to protect the data and privacy of people in those countries where companies are working together with governments in developing responses to the pandemic.

The City Government of Toronto, for example, publishes a summary of health indicators, geo-referenced data, and information on active outbreaks in the city. Bogotá’s “SaluData” offers up indicators disaggregated by locality in exhaustive detail. After entering its third stage of reopening, the City of Chicago released a new metrics dashboard that allows data to be filtered by zip code, age, gender, and racial/ethnic origin.

Using data from the National Health Insurance Administration and working together with the private sector, the Taiwanese government developed a website that shows the availability of masks according to the stock currently available in pharmacies. And it’s not only health data that’s being published: New Zealand - one of the most successful countries in managing the pandemic - has opened up data on the impact of the coronavirus on international trade.

The city of Buenos Aires has a long history of open government. We strongly feel that opening up information proactively improves communication, increases trust, and enables others to use that information to create value in other areas. Within the framework of Buenos Aires’ recently published Comprehensive Reopening Plan, all the information we use in the city government to make decisions about the coronavirus is available at Coronavirus Data.

The information that the Buenos Aires City Health Ministry issues in its daily reports on the epidemiological situation is published on this site: confirmed cases, accumulated cases, deaths, and testing, among others. In addition, it contains daily updates on data related to health and territorial management, such as calls to the city’s whatsapp chatbot “BOTI” and the city’s telephone helpline 147, statistics on the numbers of non-critical patients undergoing isolation in hotels, or of transfers made to one of 20 Emergency Febrile Units (UFUs).

It also displays data on mobility and public space, such as the number of passengers who travel daily by subway and bus, and in private vehicles. We trust that its main users - journalists, scientists, researchers and data experts - will help us identify improvements that we can add in successive stages.

In recent months, we have clearly seen the public value of data and evidence. Moving forward, we can use this to help us address other global development challenges, such as climate change or gender equality. Opening up data and information guides and informs decision-making, and it helps raise awareness of the magnitude of the challenges we have ahead.

Accurate information is key to awareness raising and reducing uncertainty, and it helps bolster cooperation between governments, the scientific community, and data users. The more information and evidence citizens have, the more freedom and responsibility they have to act. We need everyone's cooperation to stop the virus: opening up information is one key step in that direction.