Better data can help weather this health crisis: Facebook CEO

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 25, 2015 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the F8 summit in San Francisco, California. Facebook shares plunged March 19, 2018 as the social media giant was pounded by criticism at home and abroad over revelations that a firm working for Donald Trump's presidential campaign harvested and misused data on 50 million members.Calls for investigations came on both sides of the Atlantic after Facebook responded to explosive reports of misuse of its data by suspending the account of Cambridge Analytica, a British firm hired by Trump's 2016 campaign.Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Kennedy called for Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to appear before Congress, along with Google and Twitter's CEOs. / AFP PHOTO / Josh EdelsonJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

(IANS) If we use data responsibly, it can help the world respond to the ongoing health crisis and get us started on the road to recovery from COVID-19, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Monday.

He stressed that by distributing surveys to large numbers of people whose identities we know, we can quickly generate enough signal to correct for biases and ensure sampling is done properly.

“Getting accurate county-by-county data from across the US is challenging, and obtaining such focused data from across the whole world is even harder,” said Zuckerberg in a post, originally published in The Washington Post.

“But with a community of billions of people globally, Facebook can uniquely help researchers and health authorities get the information they need to respond to the outbreak and start planning for the recovery,” he added.

Zuckerberg said that helping people come together as a community will help us address our greatest challenges — not just by sharing our experiences and supporting each other in crises but also by working together at scale to solve problems.

“The world has faced pandemics before, but this time we have a new superpower: the ability to gather and share data for good,” he added.

Over the past few months, public health researchers have used data sets released by Facebook to inform decisions across Asia, Europe and North America.

“Researchers in Taiwan have been able to identify the cities with the highest chance of infection; researchers in Italy are analyzing lockdown measures in relation to income inequality; and California officials are reviewing county-level data daily to steer public health messaging,” informed Zuckerberg.

Facebook has also partnered with researchers from New York University and the Mila research institute in Montreal, using Artificial Intelligence to help hospitals better predict needs for scarce resources, such as personal protective equipment and ventilators.

“Data like this can unlock a lot of good. Since we”re all generating data from apps and devices every day, there will likely be many more opportunities to use the aggregate data to benefit public health. But it”s essential that this is done in a way that protects people”s privacy and respects human rights,” the Facebook CEO elaborated.

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