Immediately after the pandemic
The invisible threat of coronavirus was conveyed to public by presenting data and information such as the number of new cases and interpretations from experts. As people were not trusted to be responsible on their own, governments enforced lockdown measures recommended by experts based on the data.
However, in countries where governments were slow to react, with no clear messaging, people started questioning the data and implemented their own measures as conflicting opinions and interpretations of the data spread online. This led to people making their own decisions on their behaviour.
Obsessively searching and reading negative news about the pandemic, or “doomscrolling” was considered bad for mental wellbeing, while fake news about coronavirus caused much confusion: “infodemic”.
Toward society after COVID-19
The UK government has been open to the input of psychologists, anthropologists and historians to consider new measures against the pandemic. For example, these experts showed that wearing face masks prevent infection and send important signals fostering a sense of unity against the crisis among people. Governments share data and information based on scientific facts to enforce specific behaviours and use data to help people understand the intention and possible effects of these measures.
On the other hand, some tech-savvy engineers have made COVID-19 dashboards with data published by governments, known as Civic Tech. They collate several types of data and information to support theirs and others’ decision-making to tackle the pandemic.
Contributing personal data towards an effortless society
People who want to avoid confusion and confrontation are willing to follow the government’s guidelines and accept financial incentives such as subsidised dining out as we head towards “new normals”. Rather than interpreting the raw data and information on the pandemic themselves, they prefer to believe opinions and stories that benefit their own lives. They will accept the tracing apps developed by healthcare ministries that promise freedom of movement. Sharing personal data with authorities will give them a sense of safety.
People will accept that trusting government decisions will be positive and save lives. Citizens will put their healthcare data on national healthcare platforms, and public surveillance systems will track our entire journeys using contact-tracing apps. Some activists will object to national surveillance systems, but the benefits will overcome fears of data misuse.
Leveraging data towards a participatory society
People base their behavioural decisions by referring to a wide range of sources and sharing information and opinions through social media. As well as giving them access to new information on new COVID-19 cases or preventive measures, this also gives them insights into societal issues such as racial disparity and social isolation of the elderly. It also creates conflict as people selectively ignore or interpret statistical data and scientific analysis to focus on their own benefit.
Increased social data literacy among people will change the way companies and municipalities operate. People will actively intervene in a city government to solve social issues through a new scheme that enables them to decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. And corporate activities will not only be shared through commercials and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, but by a new citizen-generated media that monitor their impact on society. Data and information will increase people’s interest in their society and encourage them to get involved in how it works.