Crises can be great catalysts for change. Issues that had been forever relegated to the back burner suddenly find themselves addressed, while others that were thought to be impractical, unaffordable, or too disruptive are abruptly reframed as essential and unavoidable. The most often quoted example in the context of the coronavirus pandemic is the black death, which dealt a fatal blow to the feudal system 14th century Europe. As another example, the NHS was born in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The broad changes that may result from this crisis are hard to predict — who knows, they might include forgiveness of debt and a concerted effort to tackle climate change — but one obvious positive outcome would be to ensure we are better prepared for the next pandemic. International agencies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and public health bodies need to be better resourced and evidence-based mitigation strategies followed.
When it comes to these mitigation strategies, data - including highly sensitive health, communication and location data - will inevitably play a pivotal role. Indeed, it is already taking centre stage as authorities ponder the best way to monitor the spread of infections. The question is, can this be done without major damage to civil liberties, and in a way that can be rolled back once the pandemic subsides?
There is an urgent need to address this situation as right now, around the world, governments are deciding what to do next, and may fix on a flawed solution that will have damaging long-term outcomes.
From Computing (U.K.)
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