COVID-19: Global Geospatial Challenges and Achievements

Global challenges like COVID-19 could be solved head-on by implementing data-driven responses using technologies like GIS. Systems like Geographic Information System (GIS), proved to be of great help when it came to this.

COVID-19: Global Geospatial Challenges and Achievements
COVID-19: Global Geospatial Challenges and Achievements

COVID-19: Global Geospatial Challenges and Achievements

Over the years, The Paris Climate Agreement, The Sendai Framework, and the Sustainable Development Goals, all outline the same thing - for countries to come together and build lasting bonds to take on global environmental, economic and social problems. These global challenges could be solved head-on by implementing data-driven responses using technologies like GIS, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. Ultimately, it took a global pandemic to make this vision a reality. Now, various countries are coming together to fight Covid-19 using geospatial data and various other technologies.

To formulate government responses and actions, accurate data about population count, movement, and accessibility to essential services were desperately needed. The pandemic that surrounded us posed as an additional challenge for the authorities to gather this data. Systems like Geographic Information System (GIS), a system designed to capture and analyze spatial and geographic data, proved to be of great help when it came to this. It helped design responses on a local and national level. Despite this, the reported Covid-19 numbers are nowhere near the actual numbers.

Countries are working day and night to improve their Public Health infrastructure to compete with the growing cases of Covid-19. Tunisia is an excellent example of a country that implemented the geospatial technology to build a database of hospital bed capacity, necessary PPE Gear, and the number of medical staff. They have developed this database with the help of Graphtech, and the African Association for Geospatial Development (AGEOS). This is a database that helps them monitor their resources in real-time and helps the residents connect with essential services while the country was in lockdown. 

Another example could be taken from Columbia, a country that, with the help of Cepei, made a georeferenced map tracking the number of individual infections and deaths. This was especially helpful when they realized that most of the coronavirus infections were coming from urban areas. Regrettably, this feature could not be of the same measure of help to the rural governments as they lack the resources that would help them implement this feature successfully. Cepei, along with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), is working tirelessly to bridge the gap between the local and rural governments and help them not deflect from their developmental goals.

However, as we go to countries that have not made enough technological advancements to use geospatial data efficiently, their approach to combatting the virus needs to diversify. Indonesia's geospatial agency Badan Informasi Geospatial (BIG) 's daily reports point to insufficient and inaccurate real-time data and constant lags. This explains where they go wrong when it comes to execution. Another factor that interferes with this is differentiation in local and national policy-making, generating data and results. The Indonesian government is already trying to combat by coming out with the 'one data policy'. 

This pandemic presents us with an opportunity to expand the understanding of GIS for the public. For example, in Chile, news outlets are displaying geospatial data while reporting on Covid-19. This pandemic has also shown how countries can accelerate development by partnering up with other countries. It has built a foundation for countries to rebuild old and weaker systems and come out with stronger systems to fight Global challenges.