The economy is taking a hard hit across countries worldwide during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the main shifts we are seeing are:
- The demand side of the economy is hurt – people can’t go to work and often lose their jobs and income as businesses slow their operations. Businesses also hold off on their investments as the climate becomes extremely uncertain. Exports and imports also falter.
- Limited supply – businesses fail as they get fewer customers and cash flow. Restaurants will be amongst the hardest hit due to the lack of customers physically present, however plenty of restaurants are moving more to delivery and take-out options.
Governments will need to primarily focus on helping the demand side of the economy which means replacing incomes. On the supply side, governments will need to bail out businesses that are struggling, such as the tourism and hospitality industries. 1
The UK government is investing a £330bn coronavirus package, similar to France’s €300bn (£273bn) package, to help the economy. The US tops the charts at offering a $2 trillion (£1.6tn) coronavirus aid bill to contain the pandemic. Even with this support from governments, unemployment in the UK and the US is predicted to more than double. It will be the deepest recession since the financial crisis in 2008.
Why is it then, that Data Science is still predicted to create roughly around 11.5 million job openings by 2026 and by 2022 be the number one emerging role in the world? 2
As the virus spread in China, they relied on technology and AI to fight the pandemic. There are several ways that Data Science can help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but we will look at 3 main ways it can do so.
You might notice the tests the government is currently doing – antibody and antigen tests are for testing recent or current patients of coronavirus. The better we can track the virus, how many are affected and how many have been affected, the better equipped we’ll be to fight it.
Lots of companies are working hard to support this tracking – like for example Canadian start-up BlueDot who use AI to estimate outbreak risk. Another creation is the free app “COVID Symptom Tracker” created by King’s College London, Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital and ZOE, which provides real-time information about how the disease is spreading in the UK.
There have also been some interesting inventions, for example, the inventor Paul O’Leary is working on a face mask using the fart filtering carbon material from his fart pants, Shreddies. There have also been some not-so-necessary inventions as well, such as these surgical masks that have 3D printed off your face to be able to unlock your phone and be safe at the same time. Lastly, some people try their best but don’t always succeed – like Australian Astrophysicist Daniel Reardon who got a magnet stuck in his nose as he was testing his device that would reduce people catching coronavirus.
2. AI to help diagnose the virus
The antigen test aims to diagnose who currently has the coronavirus and is mainly is used on high-risk patients and NHS workers at the moment as it’s expensive to roll out to everyone in the UK. This, however, doesn’t create an accurate number on how many people actually have coronavirus across the UK, even mild symptoms. Alibaba claims to have created a system that can detect coronavirus in only a few seconds, with 96% accuracy. Their competitor Ping An also released news of a similar system that can analyse medical images for signs of coronavirus disease and has been used on about 5000 patients so far.
3. Developing medicine
Companies like Google DeepMind and Benevolent AI are at the forefront of working on drugs and medicine for coronavirus. DeepMind division is using their AI algorithms to understand the proteins in the virus which they have published for others to use to develop treatments. While Benevolent AI is using systems to build drugs that can be used to fight the disease and exposing existing drugs that might be useful. 3
Data Science is not just safe from the pandemic, but could also save us from the pandemic. Data Science, AI, and Machine Learning can help detection and forecast spread and speed up the search for new drugs. However, AI on its own is not good enough. We need to consider how we use these insights, and it’s mainly up to the political leaders to decide how to act on the data. 4