Data taskforce against corona

Published on 25/03/2020 in Innovate

Data taskforce against corona

In order to gain insight in the spread of the virus, the government combines data on the epidemic with mobile data. The ‘Data Against Corona Taskforce’, with Proximus as a member, wants to limit further contagion and identify high-risk regions.

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Minister of Health, Maggie De Block, and Minister of Digital Agenda and Privacy, Philippe de Backer, have put together the ‘Data Against Corona Task Force’.

Containing the contagion

This task force’s aim is to analyze data on the spread of the virus, making use of telecom- and epidemiological data. Based on this information the task force’s goal is to:

  1. Take action in containing the rising number of infections, leveling the peak amount, and thus limiting the number of patients in hospital at the same time;
  2. In the next stage, take measures to lower the infection curve;
  3. Provide a detailed assessment of the measures taken to contain the contagion.

Government, experts and telecom operators join forces

Maggie De Block and Philippe De Backer will lead the task force. They will be joined by data specialists formerly working on the Zica and Ebola crises, as well as tech- and data experts, and environmental epidemiologists. Furthermore, telecom operators Proximus, Telenet and Orange will provide telecom data and lend their support in the analysis of the accumulated data.

Mapping out high-risk regions

Over the next few days and weeks, the task force will develop and test specific applications. A few examples:

  • Creating maps on the spread of the virus to predict the location of further contagion, as well as the foreseeable time as to when new cases will be reported.
  • Identifying high-risk regions, based on the number of individuals passing through, that is, individuals who come from zones where the focus of infection is located. A possible solution might be to launch specific, local campaigns on prevention, encouraging people to stay clear of these locations, and to act with care accordingly.
  • Identifying and optimizing potential areas fit for quarantine.
  • More specific communication via Be-Alert or other channels.

Citizens remain anonymous and protected

The task force guarantees not to cross the line with regard to citizens’ privacy. The data is well protected, stating that it is impossible to link back to individuals. A citizen’s identity is and will remain completely anonymous and secure. In accordance with GDPR, an extensive DPIA (Data Privacy Impact Analysis) has been compiled, under the guidance of the Data Protection Authority. They have issued a positive opinion which includes adhering to set conditions.

Feasible applications will be selected based on their value to public health as well as their compliance with the privacy of our citizens. Even in times of need, trust in the technologies used, and data in particular, remains vital. That is why the task force aims for complete transparency. They will communicate their activities prior to the implementation of certain applications.

International interest in the task force

This Belgian initiative is being followed with interest by other countries. Acquired knowledge and best practices will be shared as much as possible, in order to battle this health crisis together.

Organizations that believe to be of value to the activities of the task force by acquiring anonymous data, can send in their proposition by e-mail:

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