At the tail end of the last quarter, the Nigerian government closed its land borders, banning all international flights and restricting interstate movement and consequently announcing a total lockdown in three states; Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja. This action by the government, which was necessitated by the upward trend in the number of coronavirus cases in those states, yielded little or no result in some instances (due to flagrance disregard for the order) with more cases confirmed and curve yet to be flattened.
In his most recent national address on Monday 27th April 2019, President Muhammad Buhari announced “a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos and Ogun state effective from Monday 4th may 2020,” a significant shift from the previously announced total lockdown in the three states. Bafflingly, the president latest statement has brought about varying opinions and reactions by concerned citizens of the country just like the previous ones. While some section of the population is actively supporting the move base on economic concerns (saving livelihood), some people have argued against the move base on health ground (saving lives) with the belief that easing of lockdown will expose individuals to contracting the virus. This burning issue has led to a heated debate among citizens of various social media platforms of which should be prioritized; livelihood or lives?
In some countries of the world, the surging tide of coronavirus has ebbed away with countries such as China, the epicenter of the virus, progressively easing off the lockdown. In Italy, the epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe has also announced the reopening of parks and gardens, funerals, training activities for athletes, and movement of people living within the same region with effective from 4th May. Other countries such as the US, New Zealand, Germany, South Korea have also joined the fray by putting proactive measures to ease off the lockdown.
An editorial on the ITV explained the various methods and strategies adopted to ease off the lockdown from one country to the other. Thus, it could be deduced that data analytics formed the core of the decision-making process from these countries. While Spain’s strategy is centered on mental health, some parts of Germany ease the restrictions on economic reasons. Adequate data about citizen’s population’s travel patterns is vital to understanding how an epidemic spreads throughout a country, and It can predict how the virus will spread and determine whether government measures are effective.
In China, where the index case of the deadly virus was identified, the country is actively using big data to combat the virus through the integration of China’s surveillance system and travel verification reports, which is provided by telcos. The data are then used in building a close contact detector app, which will alert users if they were in contact with someone who had the virus. In Taiwan, different reports and analyses allay fears of the country been heavily hit due to its proximity to China but, the government contained its spread efficiently by harnessing the use of big data analytics to minimize the impact of the virus with a robust pandemic plan created after the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Similarly, South Korea is gradually resuming business as it continues to monitor quarantined citizens with a mobile app, developed by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety. Also, in Germany, Robert Koch Institute has introduced an app, developed with Berlin digital health group Thryve, which links to fitness bands and smartwatches. The app will help it map the spread of COVID-19 by monitoring anonymized data for signs of infection, including a user’s resting pulse, sleep, and activity levels, which tend to alter significantly in the case of acute respiratory problems.
Another tool that has been helpful for private citizens, government policy-makers and healthcare professionals to see the progression of contagion and to inform models of how invasive this virus will be are dashboards from entities such as the World Health Organization that provide real-time stats. It is worthy of note that countries that are taking cognizance of big data are gradually resuming activities while monitoring the active cases in their nations.
Therefore, citizens must understand if Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, adopted big data and data analytics in easing the lockdown. One would wonder why the president, while announcing the reopening of these states did not take into consideration the adverse effect of the action on the people as coronavirus still lingers in the states. For many reasons, it would have been both economically and healthy for citizens if demographic data and segmentation are considered in making this hasty decision.
Comparatively, exemption of specific individuals, sectors, or a gradual easing-off process in a state like Lagos, the country’s commercial hub, which house over 20 million people would have reduced tension and panic that accompanied the president’s speech. In Lagos, a state which is structured informally with so many factors such as traffic, overcrowding of bus stations, unhygienic ways of handling food items, and residents not adhering to order (which is evident in the opening of some shops and businesses indirectly even with the announcement of over four weeks total lockdown), specific order must be phased to contain the spread of the viral disease.
Research has shown that data is needed to be able to make better decisions. Governments make decisions that affect the citizens directly in varying degrees; as such, decision-makers also need tools to use data to make better decisions, and big data and predictive analytics can achieve these goals. Recently, the number of cases in the country has risen to over 1,000 cases, with Lagos topping the list. More than anything, the lockdown has affected the economy and the informal sector (which contributed to over 60 percent of the economy), and all efforts by the government to ease the effect with palliatives and succors for the disadvantaged have had little impact.
For the government at all level, leveraging on data analytics will allow for dynamic assessment strategy in controlling the virus, make informed decision to determine if schools should be reopened, which government parastatals should resume activities, industries to begin operation physically and sectors to have a re-think of how to work remotely and to understand the trend.
Knowing fully well that the 4th industrial revolution will disrupt the economy, now is a time Nigeria needs to adopt the method which characterizes the evolution, which is Big data and data analytics in solving a global problem that requires dynamic approach depending on the country.
With the uncertainty of the future, data analytics is the approach to answer the question of how easing the lockdown will impact economically and health-wise, thereby preparing the country ahead of the post-pandemic. Also, it will mitigate the disruption 4IR will have on the economy.
This could be achieved through a Public-Private Partnership between the government and Big Data analytics firms in Nigeria as it will create more jobs and also serve as a means of diversifying the economy into “DATA,” which is the new oil.
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