Insight from Big Data on how the Coronavirus pandemic is changing society | Red, Green, and Blue

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Between the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, our ability to understand the effects of infectious diseases has increased exponentially. Networked personal devices and automated sensors are now ubiquitous, not to mention communications technologies like the internet that allow us to share information almost instantaneously. These devices provide us with copious “big data” on people’s movement, the environment, economic trends and more.
Data shows that air pollution decreased in many cities during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to reduced vehicle travel. Photo by Pamela Drew/Flickr
By Eric Mackres World Resources Institute
These new data – collected from an estimated 9.8 billion mobile phones, 2,200 satellites and more than 25 billion other digital sensors – are documenting the radical shifts in social and economic activities happening in response to the coronavirus pandemic. People are significantly changing their behavior, and the impacts are not affecting everyone equally.
Big data can help us not only understand the crisis and get back to normal, but create a new, better normal. Here are some early trends emerging that can inform long-term policy responses:
Parks Take on New Importance
Anonymized data from mobile phones, smart devices and applications show how mobility patterns changed in response to COVID-19 lockdowns. Travel plummeted, …

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