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Mobility data sharing during the Covid-19 pandemic – Research from Cuebiq and The GovLab

Wed Mar 24, 2021
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We commissioned Cuebiq and The GovLab to explore new initiatives that were established during the Covid-19 pandemic to share mobility data

We commissioned Cuebiq and The GovLab to explore new initiatives that were established during the Covid-19 pandemic to share mobility data, as part of our Luminate-funded project ‘Covid-19: Building an open and trustworthy data ecosystem‘. You can find the five case studies and the synthesis report produced from this research below.

Why is mobility data important for the Covid-19 response?

The initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic was one of mass collaboration. New networks, initiatives, partnerships and working groups made up of governments, businesses, academia and more were born. Many of these collaborative approaches had data and data sharing at their core.

Through our research we have taken a closer look at how mobility data is being collected, used and shared in order to help understand the spread of the pandemic and plan the response to it. To further this research, in October 2020, the ODI announced a call for proposals to review public–private mobility data sharing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The primary objective of this work was to explore how mobility data has been shared between organisations in the private and public sectors, during the Covid-19 pandemic. What are the success stories? Where has this failed? What are the barriers? What tangible effects or impacts have there been from sharing, or not sharing, between the public and private sectors? What decision making has been made possible from these sectors successfully sharing their mobility data?

We were delighted to award funding to a joint-proposal from Cuebiq and The GovLab.

The methodology

To begin this research, Cuebiq and The GovLab firstly assembled a repository of mobility data collaboratives related to Covid-19. They then selected five of these to analyse further, and produced case studies on each of the collaboratives (which you can find below in the ‘Key outputs’ section).

After analysing these initiatives, Cuebiq and The GovLab then developed a synthesis report, which contains sections focused on:

  • Mobility data – what it is and how it can be used
  • Current practice – insights from five case studies
  • Prescriptive analysis – recommendations for the future

Findings and recommendations

Based on this analysis, the authors of the report recommend nine actions which have the potential to enable more effective, sustainable and responsible re-use of mobility data through data collaboration to support decision making regarding pandemic prevention, monitoring, and response:

  1. Developing and clarifying governance framework to enable the trusted, transparent, and accountable reuse of privately held data in the public interest under a clear regulatory framework
  2. Building capacity of organisations in the public and private sector to reuse and act on data through investments in training, education, and reskilling of relevant authorities; especially driving support for institutions in the Global South
  3. Establishing data stewards in organisations who can coordinate and collaborate with counterparts on using data in the public’s interest and acting on it.
  4. Establishing dedicated and sustainable CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs on data in organisations to coordinate and collaborate with counterparts on using and acting upon data in the public’s interest.
  5. Building a network of data stewards to coordinate and streamline efforts while promoting greater transparency; as well as exchange best practices and lessons learned.
  6. Engaging citizens about how their data is being used so clearly articulate how they want their data to be responsibly used, shared, and protected.
  7. Promoting technological innovation through collaboration between funders (eg governments and foundations) and researchers (eg data scientists) to develop and deploy useful, privacy-preserving technologies.
  8. Unlocking funds from a variety of sources to ensure projects are sustainable and can operate long term.
  9. Increase research and spur evidence gathering by publishing easily accessible research and creating dedicated centres to develop best practices.

This research begins to demonstrate the value that a handful of new data-sharing initiatives have had in the ongoing response to Covid-19. The pandemic isn’t yet over, and we will need to continue to assess and evaluate how data has been shared – both successfully and unsuccessfully – and who has benefited or been harmed in the process. More research is needed to highlight the lessons from this emergency that can be applied to future crises.

Find out more about our work on data and the Covid-19 pandemic on the ‘Covid-19: Building an open and trustworthy data ecosystem‘ project page. If you have feedback on this work or would like to partner with us on follow-up research, please get in touch.

Key outputs

Read more Report: The Use of Mobility Data for Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic Read more Case study 1: Mobility and Proximity in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic Read more Case study 2: European Commission Joint Research Center’s Mapping Mobility Functional Areas (MFA) with Telecom Mobility Data Read more Case study 3: Informes de Movilidad – Telefónica Chile and Universidad del Desarrollo Read more Case study 4: Greater London Authority Datastore – COVID-19 Read more Case study 5: COVID-19 Mobility Data Network’s Use of Facebook Data for Good Mobility Data Read more #Data4COVID19 Mobility Repository: A living repository of mobility data collaboratives seeking to address the spread of COVID-19