The COVID-19 pandemic is a topical issue confronting the world in the year 2020. The disease rages through countries infecting more than two million (2,000,000) people and killing about 160,000 and counting. Despite the sophisticated healthcare systems and programmes, Western states and countries of the global north are almost overrun by the pandemic. In comparison, countries of the global south are witnessing fewer but increasing cases. In essence leaving these two questions to be answered:

  1. Can big data analytics help combat the COVID-19 pandemic?  
  2. How can big data analytics ensure economic stability post-COVID-19?

But first…

Big Data in Nigeria before COVID-19

Today, large amounts of data are created and transferred from person to person on a daily basis through social media platforms, websites, etc, people seeking to connect with each other, send pictures, videos, graphics and so on. However, up until the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, tech companies in Nigeria were not adept to this form of data due to deficiencies in collection and management.

As such numerous tech giants and start-ups within Nigeria and other developing countries focused on areas of predictive analytics, listing sites, streaming services, commercialisation of blockchain, e-Payment methods, and cloud computing among others. Only a handful of tech companies and organisations involved themselves in the salient issues of big data analytics. Hence, tech companies and by extension, small and large businesses in developing countries missed out on the benefits of Big Data and its methods of analytics.

Can Big Data Analytics Help Combat COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria and other Developing Countries?

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the African continent is nearing 20,000 with almost 800 in Nigeria as of when this article was written. 52 out of the 54 countries that make up the continent are affected, with South Africa and Algeria reporting the highest figures so far. Despite such low figures in comparison to the rest of the world, governments of these countries do not seem to be “on top of the situation”. The slow responses of African governments towards the pandemic has placed them in the position of trailing the number of reported cases rather than confronting them in real time.

Many governments have issued lockdown orders which have halted or slowed down economic activities. With offices, companies and factories shut, organisations are forced to furlough and, in some cases, out rightly lay-off their workers. This automatically transcends to an increase in unemployment figures. News outlets have predicted that about 20 million jobs are at risk in Africa due to the pandemic. Invariably, many are in need of palliatives to help cushion the effects of unemployment. These palliatives can however, not be disbursed to the right quarters due to the absence of data. 

Big Data Efforts from Tech companies

Despite being in such a situation, tech companies are beginning to adapt and familiarize themselves with Big Data Analytics. For example, South African tech companies are in the early stages of employing big data solutions to ease governmental monitoring and surveillance for the purpose of ensuring security. This snowballs into the use of the technology to combat Coronavirus.

These firms are also offering modelling services to biomedical researchers interested in fighting the Coronavirus by using artificial intelligence and machine learning (both tools of Big Data Analytics) to probe pharmalogical and genomic data bases to retrieve knowledge on the virus. The results of this is the graphical expressions of the virus seen in adverts and campaigns during this pandemic.

More interestingly, tech and telecom corporations are increasingly using big data to monitor human movement during lockdown and social distancing measures. This creates a forecast on communities prone to high rates of infections. While these are implemented, there is a need to ensure privacy concerns and guidelines are followed. These are satisfied with collaborative governments who support this initiative. Countries towing this path include Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and so on. Beyond the African continent, South Korea, Singapore among others are supporting tech companies in using big data to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the extent to which big data analytics can be used as a weapon against the deadly virus is not yet known as we are still in the early stages of such initiative with so much more to learn and uncover.

Big Data Analytics- the pathway to economic stability post COVID-19

For most countries, regaining economic stability in the period following the pandemic will a herculean but necessary task. Already, industries and global corporations are suffering the heavy fall outs of the pandemic. The preceding combined with reduction in international trade will inevitably affect the different economies of the world.

Despite this, it must be noted that big data along with new methods of analytics can help cushion the effect of the economic downturn. This is proven to be true as increase in human knowledge and learning has always resulted to an increase in economic and commercial activities. Examples abound in the industrial revolution of the 1800s and the digital revolution of the 1970s

As such, tech companies are saddled with the responsibility of driving the popularity of big data analytics as a formidable tool of economic stability. One way this can happen is for tech companies to introduce certification and learning opportunities on Big Data analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and the likes. This will not only equip people with knowledge of such skills but indirectly change the demands of businesses and corporations as regards data analytics. Ultimately more jobs will be created and economic activities will receive a boost.