#WeVsVirus - how Data Science can help with the corona crisis

Every day new negative headlines appear in relation to the current global corona (covid-19) crisis. Nevertheless, for a change in these unreal times, there is now some good news. As part of the fight against the corona virus, the German government had called for joint creativity in the form of a "hackathon" on March 18, 2020, which was carried out successfully on the weekend of March 20-22, 2020.

The idea behind a hackathon, a neologism made up of the two words "hack" and "marathon", is to develop new or existing digital solutions within a limited period. This makes Germany a digital trendsetter; seven other nations already want to follow the example of the German government and run a hackathon in the coming weeks.

Under the patronage of Prof. Dr. Helge Braun, Head of the Federal Chancellery, and seven organisations, more than 800 challenges with a social, economic or medical background to overcome the problems of the corona crisis were awaiting a solution. Between March 20 and 22, the participants had exactly 48 hours to solve the multitude of challenges.

The results were evaluated according to the following three categories:

  • New developments,
  • Further development of existing solutions and
  • Commercial solutions.

Within the categories, five criteria were used for further judgement:

  • Social added value,
  • Degree of innovation,
  • Scalability,
  • Progress and
  • Comprehensibility.

It is important to mention that all of this was based purely on the intrinsic motivation of the participants, as there were no financial incentives promised to participate in the hackathon. It was all about creating solutions together from society for society. A total of almost 43,000 participants, more than 2,900 mentors and almost 2,000 idea generators were involved - which is most likely worth an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

The issues addressed were summarized in so-called "Challenges" with social, economic and medical character. For example, problems in connection with social distancing were examined. Other challenges were, for example, the distribution of capacities in hospitals, the promotion of local businesses and protection from insolvency or the preparation of mass data for better usability.

The participants delivered a variety of excellent solutions of different types and forms (an app, a platform or an analogous solution or similar). The most important outcomes on how the field of "Data Science", among others, can support the challenges posed by the global pandemic were as follows:

  • Support in the preparation and performance of corona tests, for example by reducing testing times, sharing test capacities and assessing the risk of infection.
  • Support in developing voice interaction systems, such as a free global information hotline for millions of people without access to the Internet, or in recording and processing telephone requests from vulnerable elderly people when shopping, etc.
  • Support in optimizing and maintaining logistics chains and supply routes, for example by exchanging and analysing data.
  • Support in tracing chains of infection and ensuring the free movement of goods and commodities throughout Europe, for example by introducing digital border controls.

In addition to the new and further developed solutions in the hackathon, Data Science has already found many applications in the fight against the global pandemic. For example, machine-learning techniques have been and continue to be used in many areas to support and combat the crisis.

Current use cases of Data Science are:

  • As a global early warning system to identify new types of diseases (for example, machine learning systems worldwide reported anomalies when the virus broke out).
  • To track and predict the spread of the virus (for example, by analysing flight data or examining social media, websites, etc. for signs of new spread).
  • To support virus diagnosis, especially computer tomography.
  • To support research and development of vaccines.

Only a few years ago, such a great influence of Data Science was unrealistic and hardly not feasible due to a lack of technical resources. However, in the recent past, the technical possibilities have increased dramatically and the future bring many new and currently unknown solutions by using Data Science.

To find out how RSM can support your company by using Data Science, please contact our experts.

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