He wrote, “As the world fights Covid-19 and countries develop plans to reopen their societies, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of how the disease is spreading. Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment—and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again.”
Zuckerberg addressed the challenges of obtaining accurate county-by-county data in the U.S., much less globally, saying that its community of billions of users enables it to help researchers and health authorities gain a clearer picture.
Earlier this month, users in the U.S. began seeing links atop their News Feeds to an optional, off-Facebook survey being conducted by Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Center, aimed at helping health researchers monitor and forecast the spread of Covid-19.
The survey asked respondents if they were experiencing symptoms associated with the coronavirus, such as fevers, coughing, shortness of breath or loss of smell.
The social network said at the time that CME Delphi Research would not share individual responses with Facebook, and Facebook would not share information about participants with the researchers.
Zuckerberg revealed that CME Delphi Research published its initial findings Monday, adding that the survey has been tallying roughly 1 million responses per week.
He wrote, “The results indicate, for example, that in some New York City suburbs, an estimated 2% to 3% of people are experiencing Covid-19-like symptoms. Using aggregate data from Carnegie Mellon’s results, Facebook produced its first report and new interactive maps, which we plan to update daily through this outbreak.”
When Facebook introduced the survey earlier this month, it also detailed three new types of interactive maps to help researchers learn more about the spread of the coronavirus.
Co-location maps help illustrate the probability that people in one area will come into contact with people in another area, helping disease modelers predict how the coronavirus might spread.
Movement range trends provide a regional-level look at whether people are staying near their homes or venturing elsewhere, enabling researchers to gauge the effectiveness of preventive measures.
And the social connectedness index paints a picture of friendships across states and countries, aiding predictions on the spread of the disease, as well as determinations of which areas were hit the hardest.
Zuckerberg wrote, “This is work that social networks are well-situated to do. By distributing surveys to large numbers of people whose identities we know, we can quickly generate enough signal to correct for biases and ensure sampling is done properly. We’re partnering with faculty from the University of Maryland to expand this survey globally, and the team at Carnegie Mellon is building an application-programming interface, or API, that will let researchers everywhere access the results. We’re hopeful that this will help governments and public health officials around the world who might not otherwise have this kind of precise data to make decisions in the weeks and months ahead.”
He concluded, ”I’ve always believed that helping people come together as a community will help us address our greatest challenges—not just by sharing our experiences and supporting each other in crises but also by working together at scale to solve problems. The world has faced pandemics before, but this time, we have a new superpower: the ability to gather and share data for good. If we use it responsibly, I’m optimistic that data can help the world respond to this health crisis and get us started on the road to recovery.”
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