Imagine life in lockdown without technology.
Many of us can work from home, school at the kitchen table, and connect with friends and family from our sofas.
And now technology is playing a deeper role in communities as governments explore digital solutions to end the crisis.
So-called ‘digital contact tracing methods’ work by recording location data to notify users that may have come into contact with someone who has the virus. But inaccurate symptom reporting, compounded by missing data on factors that affect the likelihood of transmission, limit the effectiveness.
However, existing location tracking apps are already going beyond the level of data sharing that many people are comfortable with. A recent survey showed just over 1 in ten would be willing to share data with tech companies. This isn’t surprising given recent data scandals, such as Cambridge Analytica.
But to support accurate modelling and alerting even more data is needed.
As time goes on the effects of covid-19 on societies and economies are becoming entrenched into our futures.
Will the public be willing to share more personal data?
And what can businesses do to build trust?
A study by Oxford University highlighted the importance of rigorous ethical standards to achieve public confidence in developing technology for COVID-19. An open letter from responsible technologists to NHSX, the digital arm of the NHS, warned that taking shortcuts on ethical best practice could undermine health services.
But now the UK Government has turned down a decentralised approach from the Google-Apple partnership which claimed to put privacy and security at the focus. Instead the government and NHSX is in favour of a centralised approach which prioritises effective analysis. This approach means data is stored on a computer server making it potentially easier for data to be misused.
Whatever the approach, it is up to business and governments to ensure the public’s trust is regained in data sharing.
This crisis can act as a catalyst for business to demonstrate an ethical approach to data use. Prioritising data ethics and tech for good today could shift our data futures, setting foundations to combat epidemics and disasters of the 21st Century – natural or human.
Those that act with integrity, quickly and ethically, will have the greatest impact in solving the crisis today and those of the future.