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Ground Truth

by Matt Manning

During this pandemic, the value of accurate data has never been more obvious. Without reliable information derived from the mountains of data being generated by fast-moving events the actions necessary to slow the outbreak are impossible to make. From the data-gathering process to the intelligent analysis of that data by experts and through to action based on that analysis—all stages of the process are now very familiar to almost everyone on the planet.

The management of this data supply chain process is, of course, old news for people in the online information business and many of our firms are now scrambling to help businesses navigate the perils and opportunities opened up by the crisis. Among the information feeds now in development are:

  • Robust primary source data on the spread of the pandemic via public and (especially) ‘alternative’ sources
  • Value-added feeds of government contract and grant data
  • Fluctuating price and production data for marketers, distributors, and retailers
  • Personnel data for those leading the global pandemic response
  • Predictive analytics on the long-term economic effects of the lock-down

All of these efforts help to define the ‘ground truth’ of our current situation and there is a case to be made that this kind of data work is ‘essential’ to the intelligent response to the virus affecting all of our lives. Smart decisions require accurate source data, sound data analysis methodology, and timely action.

Of course, because we are familiar with fundamentals of gathering and analyzing primary source data it’s easy for us in the information business to second-guess government responses. Simple things like comparing daily mortality rates to the baselines of the recent past to see the true impact of the virus are blindingly obvious to us, but apparently confound many of the amateur data analysts leading the response to the outbreak. Similarly, the explosive nature of an exponential growth curve is hard for many people to understand just in terms of the basic mathematics of it all.

One thing that everybody can understand, however, is that the value of truly understanding ‘ground truth’ has never been so apparent to so many people. Years from now when this disaster is just a painful memory for us all, we will perhaps look back on this year as the tipping point when the critically important nature of our real-time intelligence industry came of age.

posted by Shyamali Ghosh on April 14, 2020

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