Today Direct Relief, along with colleagues at Facebook, Nethope and the CrisisReady collaboration with researchers at Harvard University, is honored to release a new report on the work of Facebook’s Data for Good program from across the length and breadth of 2020.
The past year has been beset by crisis like no other in recent memory. For most people around the world the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions in movement and business activity have been in the foreground of daily life at least since February. Amidst the pandemic an enormous number of other events, almost any combination of which would have been high impact in any other year, also demanded response from public health and humanitarian agencies throughout the world.
From unprecedented wildfires in Australia to a record number of named storms in the Atlantic, 2020 proved relentless on several fronts at once.
Direct Relief, like many organizations, regularly utilized several large-scale data resources published by Facebook Data for Good in order to respond to the emergencies of 2020. These datasets, from tracking population mobility, displacement, and density, to forecast models of COVID-19 case incidence, to surveys on health attitudes and behaviors, have become genuinely invaluable resources.
As cases of COVID-19 spread like wildfire around the world in February and early March, for instance, Direct Relief helped to convene urgent discussions with colleagues at Facebook and the network of collaborators on Data for Good about data resources that would prove valuable to assist the response. An emergency call was convened through Facebook Data for Good on Saturday morning, March 14th, to begin sorting out the major issues and requirements for rapid impact, from stakeholder networks to data pipelines, methods, and work products. Participants included several members of the academic infectious disease epidemiology community, the World Bank, UNICEF, the Gates Foundation, other NGOs, and the data team from Facebook.
Out of that meeting grew a spontaneous global effort to assist the containment of COVID-19 in part by providing real-time mobility data and analysis resources at scale to leading public sector health agencies so that physical distancing policies could be understood as they were implemented. The effort came to be called the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network, and in part through the support of the team at Facebook it was able to provide direct analytical support to over 40 different countries, states and cities throughout 2020.
This data-driven approach to critical needs for the pandemic response was only one among dozens of different efforts undertaken by hundreds of researchers, development institutions, environmental agencies, and humanitarian organizations throughout the world using data provided by Facebook Data for Good. Teams at UNICEF used survey data from the Facebook platform to drive risk communications around childhood vaccinations. Researchers at the Cadasta Foundation responded to critical issues of land tenure and eviction with granular population density data. Economists in Peru, Chile, and Costa Rica helped to inform targeted economic recovery efforts and used population data to support sustainable livelihoods.
Driving social impact through data is neither easy, nor straightforward, and the many projects in here achieved both significant positive results while experience myriad challenges with translating analysis into operational impact. This report is then a contribution towards understanding how that impact happened, and what more still needs to be done to advance these types of projects.
More than that, though, this report is a resource for the future, which we hope will provide ideas and inspiration for problem solvers everywhere.
This post was originally published on Direct Relief.