Opinion and Editorial

Is efficient data compliance key to controlling Covid?

Khaled Lababidi
Filed on April 26, 2021

So how can these institutions prepare to store, manage and process this mass amount of data?

The UAE is hailed as one of the leading countries in the world for the rollout of its Covid-19 vaccination programme. The country confirmed it had administered over 10 million vaccinations, with more than 50 per cent of its population inoculated. These stats are welcome news – the sooner countries can reach herd immunity, the sooner the world can move forward from the pandemic. We have been in ‘crisis mode’ for the last year, but the question that must be asked is: is the region prepared for the amount of data being collected and shared across institutions due to Covid-19?

Here in the region and around the world we are seeing governments partnering with health ministries, private and national health service providers, research entities and pharmaceutical companies to race towards a single cause – controlling the spread of the virus and finding a vaccine or cure to protect the public. But this has proven to be an immense lift for organisations and governments alike. Institutions around the world had to expedite solutions, based on data, to reduce transmission rates with little to no notice when the virus first presented itself on multiple continents at once.

As one can imagine, the solutions to control a pandemic require a mass amount of data. Data may come from testing centres, vaccination centres, healthcare facilities or private institutions, as people around the world take part in testing and vaccination trials and programmes. But one thing holds true no matter where the data comes from – it needs to be safe, secure and utilised in an ethical way.

So how can these institutions prepare to store, manage and process this mass amount of data? The answer to this question not only sits with institutions, but also with governments and their respective regulations around data, specifically in situations such as the current Covid-19 pandemic.

A clearer understanding of regulation is essential. There cannot be any grey areas around data; more specifically around sensitive data such as medical records, healthcare and vaccinations.

Global healthcare providers want to be compliant with local data regulations in markets they are operating in, but lack the capabilities to do so. Local governments have their own respective rules and regulations, therefore navigating these poses a challenge for institutions.

Options and solutions for data compliance need to be made available and communicated properly to institutions in a quick and efficient way, giving them the proper tools to swiftly take action when such a pandemic presents itself.

The clarification of these three points will allow institutions around the world to effectively leverage data, in an ethical way, to manage Covid-19 and future pandemics. The quicker these points are answered, the more swiftly we can contain the virus, even exponentially so.

We have begun to see positive outcomes of governments and institutions working hand in hand at creating viable solutions to containing the pandemic based on data. A good example of this is a contact tracing app, created by UK institutions, that keeps individuals anonymous but has the ability to track their location with unique numbers that change every couple of minutes. This allows the app to alert people through their unique numbers if they were in close contact with a Covid case.

This brings up another point that institutions need to address – individuals crave peace of mind that their data is being handled properly. The onus is on organisations to ensure data is not only viewed, stored and processed in line with regulations and industry standards, but that they are going above and beyond these standards, due to the critical nature of the data. The added benefit to this is the extra layer of quality assurance to the data.

When it comes to the medical industry, individuals need to be assured that they are in safe hands. Not just in how they are treated, but in how their information is managed. We are treading a fine line between data security and data transparency – ensuring citizens and residents are protected, while turning it into information and then intelligence, in order to track and trace as required. If we can tackle this together, our economies have the chance to recover more quickly.

Khaled Lababidi is vice-president & general manager of Middle East, Africa and Turkey at InCountry, a tech company specialising in ‘data residency-as-a-service’

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