Coronavirus & The Birth of Pandemic Analytics

by Shreekant Shiralkar

Isn’t it surprising that just a few months ago, significance of data privacy and information security was the topic of global attention and GDPR like laws came into being. COVID-19 pandemic however forced in diverting attention to data sharing culture. Coronavirus also created humungous amount of new data especially the data generated by mobile apps that got developed during pandemic, for example the Arogya Setu App in India, having over 100 million installs opens up a completely new universe of data. Data to learn from and act upon, and all these developments gave birth to a new field of study the Pandemic Analytics.

Let us recall about a story on how a relatively small AI based company “BlueDot” in Canada was among the first in the world to identify the emerging risk from COVID-19 in Hubei province in China. BlueDot is founded by Dr. Kamran Khan, a practicing infectious disease physician. BlueDot proved the critical importance of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the aid and protection of humanity in times of crisis. Let us contrast this story with another on genesis of modern epidemiology, in early 1850s when Dr. John Snow, examined cluster patterns of cholera cases around water pumps, he actually had introduced the value of analytics for combatting health crisis to the world.

Apart from many obvious similarities in those stories separated by over a century, one that caught my attention was, how analytics as a tool, can empower a professional, who has the contextual expertise, instead of a person oblivious from many domain nuances and sensitivities, for instance an IT developer or a statistician.

With direct involvement of end-user for instance an epidemiologist, analytics helps taking critical decisions in real-time for treating an ailing patient and save life. Similarly, Analytics powered by Artificial Intelligence can reduce drug development timelines for a researcher on vaccine, Analytics can help forecast and optimize allocation of personnel and resources in advance of potential local outbreaks for Healthcare Administrators. Today technology exists for diagnosis of Coronavirus through imaging analysis, decreasing the diagnosis time from CT scan results from about 5 minutes to just 20 seconds!! It is amazing how an empowered healthcare professional with tool delivering Pandemic Analytics can aid protecting lives in crisis.

Pandemic Analytics is premised on many underlying technological advancements and developments, for instance the Ability to source data from multiple sources and types, be it format or media or language in the world. Then process this humongous data by use of cloud computing for rapid scalability and AI & ML technologies for scale of processing. Technology that augment’s the analytical process in producing insightful interpretations and inferences, in extremely short time by capability of ML & AI for generating insightful visuals. Power of Pandemic Analytics can be only real when it is delivered on a device that is as normal as a personal tablet or a mobile device.

As I reflect on each element of the narrative, I derive satisfaction to have authored book titled Empower Decision Makers with SAP Analytics Cloud. While the book is primarily on SAP’s solution for modern analytics that capitalizes on cloud computing, blended with power of the ML and AI, it attempts to highlight on empowering professionals with ability to “see what wasn’t so easy earlier”.

The book explains SAP Analytics Cloud’s (SAC) capability to process voluminous data, from multiple sources with least efforts in short time, to generate insights and how it facilitates change to a data-driven-culture, and more. Content of the book are contextualized for an end-user in a way that technical capabilities and features are explained in relevance to application in a business environment. Content in the book is deliberately kept to be easy to read and facilitating immediate application of knowledge through step-by-step process aided by illustrations and visuals.

This article was contributed by Shreekant Shiralkar, author of Empower Decision Makers with SAP Analytics Cloud.