Navigating the new normal: underused information and inexistent data

You often hear that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic took us by surprise. Is that really true? Using information correctly is a priority for businesses now that they are starting to operate in the new normal.

“Having no information is limiting. Having it and not using it can be devastating.”

21 February 2020: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, expresses concern during a video interview and summarizes the message addressed to the leaders of nations around the world in a simple sentence: “the window of opportunity” to avoid the pandemic “is narrowing”.  

11 March 2020: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declares that the Coronavirus is now pandemic. On that same occasion he states:  

  • “We have asked all countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have sounded the alarm clear and loud”
  • “The majority of cases – 90% of the 118,000 confirmed – are concentrated in 4 countries: Italy, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China. We cannot say it louder, clearer or enough times: all the countries of the world still have the opportunity to change the course of this pandemic.”
  • “Some countries are suffering due to a lack of skills, some are suffering from a lack of resources, others are suffering from a lack of will in solving the problem.”

How is it possible that clear, simple and available information is only partially used, misinterpreted or even completely ignored? 

The pandemic theme is neither new nor unknown. Der Spiegel, German epidemiologist reminded us in an interview when he answered the question:“Was facing the current pandemic a déjà vu for you as an epidemiologist?”

“In 2003 we had SARS, in 2009 we had the swine flu and in 2013 there was the H7N9 flu. Every pandemic is different. But for researchers, I think it’s very important to not take nature for granted and expect anything.”

It was March 4, 2013 when the words of Dr. Shelly Batra (President, Operation ASHA) were quoted by TIME Magazine in the article “Drugs Don’t Work”. Speaking of the horror of the new form of tuberculosis now completely resistant to any medicine, Dr. Batra declares:“We are on the threshold of a new epidemic that has no cure. If this tuberculosis spreads in the world we will go back to the Middle Ages”.

Identify missing information

The WHO supplied easily accessible information regarding a real and serious risk to humanity, however it was used little in decision making. The question, therefore, is what the impact would have been if the information needed to make strategic decisions had not existed at all. 

Find out more about adapting analytics to the new normal

For several decades, every day at the same time a researcher comes out of the scientific base in Antarctica to leave a probe and measure the temperature in the different layers of the atmosphere. This is one of many measurements taken daily around the world to try to predict the consequences of climate change. 

Studying in detail what happens in Antarctica is necessary to understand what is happening in the world. A small problem with Antarctica’s ice, for example, may mean high water in Venice, and scientific research can help reverse the devastating trend of the consequences of climate change. 

Global warming as well as microplastic pollution fall into that category of events of which the causes are known but the effects are not known precisely. The melting of mountain glaciers has had a rate of 335 billion tonnes lost every year in recent years. To these we can add – as Nasa reports – almost 300 billion tons lost every year from the greenland ice sheet and almost 130 billion from that of Antarctica. And the melting pace is getting faster and faster.  

Today there are 15 million square kilometers covered by ice on Earth, about 10% of the land above sea level. This mass of ice contains 69% of the planet’s fresh water and – if it melted completely – the sea level would rise by 70 meters. 

Predicting accurately all the implications not only at the macroscopic level, however, requires an enormous and constant effort of research and analysis of the data. That is why it is crucial to make available the right tools and resources to those tasked with collecting and analysing data.  

The pandemic is also an event whose cause is well known, Coronavirus (COVID-19), but the effects are not entirely clear. It is therefore fundamental that businesses know their informational context.  

  • Is the information already available used appropriately?
  • What essential information do we need to get?
  • What information (and related processes/technologies) can we do without?

Even before creating or accessing information with sophisticated technologies, it is important that we know how we want the information to be used to ensure that it is used corrently. 

Enhance the analysis process

Only after the information requirements have been correctly identified can we proceed to the next phase of defining the methods of gathering and management (technical and operational aspects). 

Over the last decade, investments in enabling technologies have been given great importance. Artificial Intelligence, IoT (Internet Of Things), Machine Learning, Robotics have been developed internally, outsourced or assembled to create new solutions via an Open Innovation Approach.

However, without a pre-analysis that can clearly highlight the advantage of the user case, the technology applied could destroy value instead of creating it. 

Understanding the man-machine relationship is key to ensuring that technology translates into real help. However powerful and sophisticated the technology, we created it therefore it must serve us well. Technology can evolve rapidly, man (for the moment) does not. Human beings have responded and will respond for a long time to the same genetic “configuration” which we have. 

This poses an especially important challenge for companies that want to use enabling technologies to their advantage. The goal is to learn how to balance the interaction between man and machine in order to increase management of the (hyper) complexity present in the current context, therefore a return on the investment.  


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