Thoughts and Musings

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The Value of Data

Over the past week or so, the world has been consumed with the coverage of COVID-19. It is literally impossible to turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or go online without seeing some type of coronavirus content. And as people around the world have been advised to limit in-person contact with each other, the widespread availability of information can be useful in providing needed health updates, as well as details on school and business closings, directives on quarantines, and public safety initiatives.


Unfortunately, this 24/7 coverage comes with a downside. Sensationalist headlines, which are purely designed to get readers or viewers to read or watch, may amplify the threat of the virus, or may distort the reasoning behind the decisions made by public officials. Conversely, talking heads may downplay the severity of the situation without considering the facts, though thankfully much of that noise has dissipated in recent days.   


Still, acquaintances, friends, and even family members may share strong feelings on social media about the seriousness of the coronavirus, and society’s response to the outbreak. While I’m certain that people are well-meaning, much of the word-of-mouth information tends to be anecdotal or based around deliberately false information (“It doesn’t seem that bad where I am,” or “I’ve heard you can get coronavirus from toilet paper”), rather than discussing or citing facts about the outbreak.


That’s why it’s important for both individuals and businesses to go beyond the headlines and hysteria, and seek out the actual data around the outbreak. Now, I’m a data guy, so I actually enjoy diving into the numbers, because they can tell a story, without the hyperbole. That said, it’s still important to carefully look at the data itself, the methodology used to collect that data, and the source(s) of that data, and then assess the risks and opportunities. It should be no different than conducting due diligence on a corporate partner, an acquisition, or a prospective boyfriend/girlfriend your child brings home (btw, I’m not looking forward to this day).


I’ve linked to this source on social media already, but I’ll re-link it here. This is a comprehensive coronavirus tracker, compiled by Andrzej Leszkiewicz, a data analyst in Poland, and it can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/tllu8a7. It’s possible to really dig in and compare coronavirus cases and outcomes across a wide number of countries.


It’s human nature to make decisions based on a gut feeling or intuition, and in the absence of data, that’s a reasonable approach. But it’s 2020, and we have the data, and nearly everyone with a computer can access it. 

But don’t just take my word for it; take a look at the data, the sources used to compile that data, and then make your own determination of the seriousness of the outbreak, and how you choose to respond.

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