Collection and analysis of large sums of data have long been a vital undertaking, affecting the way processes are conducted throughout all sorts of businesses globally. Big data and its respective marketing have been a blossoming industry in Southeast Asia in recent years. In August 2020, Google started construction on a third data centre in Singapore to service a region that enjoys an internet penetration rate of 70% according to the 2020 Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company report

As second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic surface around the globe, nations, and companies must redirect their data analytics efforts to create effective strategies to guarantee a safe and healthy society. 

Data markets

Data analytics and artificial intelligence will be of vital importance to “…predict, prepare and respond in a proactive and accelerated manner to a global crisis and its aftermath.”, says Laurence Goasduff, PR Director of Gartner EMEA and India. Because of this, data marketplaces are emerging as the next place where organisations can acquire information sets. 

Data continues to be a big topic we follow at Tech Collective. We look at data regulations and more.

Unlike data lakes or data warehouses—where information is either stored in bulk in the former or aimed at a specific use for the latter—data marketplaces have a broader range of data sets. This information is ready for use thanks to the quality of their data and metadata, saving data scientists hours of Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) processes. 

Ocean Protocol is a tokenised Business to Business model of data exchange founded in Singapore. Along with the Decentralised Artificial Intelligence Alliance, they launched #COVIDathon, the first Decentralised AI hackathon to support the medical community with solutions against the new strain of Coronavirus in March 2020. The 11 winning projects ranged from cough listening software to digital volunteer platforms, antibody testing, Peer2Peer resource distribution platforms, and more.

Processes and tools to guarantee operational efficiency

It is not just the data points, but the operation behind the acquisition processes that must be robust, says Robert Saul, Lead Insights and Analytics Senior Analyst of Tacoma Water’s Analytics and Implementation team in Washington, USA. Many government workers in smaller areas in the US were overwhelmed by the massive numbers they had to report and discovered the software is not oriented to handle such large numbers. 

Thanks to this realisation, key players in the geographical information system industry have assisted and trained different entities in the US in data analytics. Furthermore, with so much information to gather, the challenge larger nations are facing is how to maintain the data quality. They are trying to obtain as much information on many levels (state, county, neighbourhood) to provide more granularity to investigations and analyses. 

Contact tracing

A different arena in the fight against the virus is via contact tracing. One notable example is Google and Apple’s collaborative framework, Exposure Notification, for identifying and contacting individuals who may have had exposure to the virus, says Andrés González Casablanca, Credit Risk Analytics Senior Associate at Wells Fargo Bank in the USA. This collaboration between the tech giants lets individuals opt-in and report if they have contracted the virus. 

Once a person confirms a positive COVID-19 result, their device will send a private message to users that have been within a specific range of the infected person’s device. The system does not gather personal information about the users, and users must give consent before confirming that they have obtained a positive result. This system is usable in 28 countries as of December 2020. 

There have been several implementations of contact tracing protocols in Southeast Asia, Singapore’s BlueTrace for the TraceTogether app being a clear example. It is an open-source application protocol that has been adopted by other countries such as Australia, relying on its principles of the preservation of privacy and cooperation with health authorities. Similar apps are Mor Chana in Thailand and Bluezone in Vietnam.

Privacy is a big concern with contact tracing applications. While in some countries, citizens have willingly registered for programmes, news outlets have indicated that people are sceptical about providing so much information. Some feel that many of these applications ask excessive permissions from their users, with terms and conditions that are confusing or are not fully transparent. 

With its high internet penetration and still several months (or years) before the pandemic is officially over, Southeast Asia is in a privileged position to continue growing in the big data world. The region has the opportunity to show other countries the manifold advantages of data analytics. By establishing a foothold in the data marketplace scene, consolidating its data collection and analysis processes, and implementing tools that will allow us to trace diseases faster and more effectively, big data has a significant part to play in the first pandemic of the 21st century and many more to come.