Solution & Team Overview

Solution name:

CrisisReady: digital data for emergency response

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Short solution summary:

Integrating human mobility data streams and advanced epidemiological modeling into local epidemic preparedness and health emergency response, around the world.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team based?

Boston, MA, USA
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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Dr. Caroline Buckee, Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is the Team Lead.

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Which Challenge Area does your solution most closely address?

Respond (Decrease transmission & spread), such as: Optimal preventive interventions & uptake maximization, Cutting through “infodemic” & enabling better response, Data-driven learnings for increased efficacy of interventions
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What specific problem are you solving?

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a gap between new scientific approaches developed primarily in academia to monitor and model human behavior underlying epidemics, and the surveillance needs of decision makers, who wanted to know how many cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to expect, and whether social distancing interventions were working.

Data from cell phones provide insights into how, where, and when people move - which can be transformative for disease surveillance and modeling. In 2020, anonymized data from billions of individuals were available at scale, but were not used effectively to combat the pandemic because of three key limitations: 1] These data are not readily available except through philanthropic programs by technology companies, or for high costs, 2] Analytical methods to interpret these new data streams for epidemiological modeling are only just emerging, and expertise is not available locally , 3] Even if analyses were available, few health responders understood the potential and limitations of these data, nor had the means to integrate insights into response. Models developed in the global north were misapplied around the world with scant attention to local context. Weak links in the data-methods-translation pipeline, precluded the effective use of human mobility data in devising strategies to protect millions of lives.

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Who does your solution serve, and what needs of theirs does it address?

The PLATFORM + NETWORK solution we propose will be directly used and informed by researchers, government agencies, disaster response teams, and data providers to improve health emergency response globally, and serve millions around the world annually. The tools and information will be developed in concert with diverse research and response teams worldwide - including both data providers and users of data. Our team has already been collaborating with governments and companies in the US and across the global South to support their needs.

The Community of Practice ensures that key stakeholders are constantly engaged - and driving - the products developed on the PLATFORM. CrisisReady will thus empower scientific researchers - epidemiologists, mobility experts, and data scientists -  to access the data they need; data providers to know what data is needed as emergencies arise; and policy makers and response agencies to know and understand what insights these data can (and cannot) generate. 

Through weekly engagement with a global network of researchers in 2020, and a series of exploratory seminars in March and April 2021, we have ensured that key stakeholders from academia, government, response agencies and technology companies inform our collective work and mission.

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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An initiative, venture, or organisation with an established product, service, or business/policy model rolled out in one or, ideally, several contexts or communities, which is poised for further growth
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More About Your Solution

Please select all the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Big Data
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • GIS and Geospatial Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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What “public good” does your solution provide?

The CrisisReady PLATFORM will generate an open suite of data and code repositories, digital toolkits and insights available to the global research community, to companies overseeing Data for Good programs, and to policy makers and responders. 

The CrisisReady Network will grow and sustain collaborations between researchers and responders that deploy, test and advance the use of human mobility data in public health emergencies, through training programs, collaborative research and integrated simulation exercises as described above.

Current workstreams include measuring how OpenDP will impact epidemiological applications, developing rapid epidemiological models for use within post-disaster outbreaks, building models to simulate the impact of wildfire related evacuations on health systems, building a global community of practice with the World Bank’s GFDRR, and conducting a global consultative process to publish a white paper and guidance document on the “safe, responsible, equitable” use of mobility data in public health emergencies. 

Our approach will thus result in scientifically sound, data driven, contextually intelligent public health interventions that potentially benefit hundreds of millions of people impacted by health emergencies annually. Our approach will be critical to pandemic response planning, but also applicable to a range of natural disasters that result in acute or long term population displacement.

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How will your solution create tangible impact, and for whom?

The key activities which enable impact include curation of data repositories, technical support for a network of researchers, workshops for data analysis, and new privacy preserving approaches like OpenDP.

The key outputs from these activities include privacy-preserving access to data-repositories; models and tools; and trained personnel in response agencies at regional hubs. Evidence for the impact of these approaches can be found in papers by our team: Covid-19, Bangladesh, and Taiwan.

The key outcomes from these outputs include a global Community of Practice of researchers and responders that advance the application of these analyses in public health response; improved forecasting and decision-making at local institutions. Key evidence of the impact of these NETWORK approaches can be found here: Covid-19, Data translators, and a use case from Syracuse, NY.

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How will you scale your impact over the next one year and the next three years?

CrisisReady will create scientific evidence and convening opportunities to inform global standards for the use of mobility data sets for public health. Our team has deep engagement with governments, NGOs, and multilaterals (WHO/World Bank), as well as interdisciplinary expertise. The platform’s goal is to produce real-time intelligence to guide local public health decision-making around the world, targeting interventions that benefit populations at-risk during health emergencies.

In year one we’ll scale up new and existing data pipelines, convene the community of practice, and develop guidance documents, code repositories, and standardized data processing frameworks on use of mobility data in public health emergencies. 

In year two we’ll invest in regional partnerships to co-create solutions that respond to locally identified needs by researchers and responders, laying ground for integrating these insights into response planning. 

By year three, we expect to reach a critical mass of collaborators in three regional hubs, to see near real-time insights generated from human mobility and novel data streams integrated into pandemic and disaster planning - including forecasting outbreaks, testing and quarantine strategies, and resource allocation. These insights are likely to be a critical pillar of health resilience planning by 2024, annually impacting tens of millions of lives globally. 

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How are you measuring success against your impact goals?

We will measure success by monitoring how we advance science and practice. Specific metrics are listed below:

Advancing the Science (Influence):

  • scale-able open source technical products, 

  • publications,

  • training programs. 

Advancing Practice (Impact):

  • instances when analytics are integrated into response planning,

  • specific improvements to response actions based upon the use of novel data sources linked to modeling and other analytics, 

  • improvements in the accuracy of resource allocation including vaccines and medicines, 

  • more careful implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions which maximizes health benefits while minimizing social and economic costs,

  • improvements in accuracy and speed of deployment for emergency medical teams. 

While we expect these advances can potentially impact millions of lives and livelihoods annually, it would be disingenuous (of us) and extremely rare to attribute lives saved to a specific action on our part. Our precursor, the Covid-19 Mobility Data Network, had 100+ partners working with agencies around the world, and a range of technology partners. The Network met weekly throughout 2020, hosted global workshops, and witnessed several instances of our work integrated into decision making, including routine evaluation of distancing measures by the California Governor’s Office and the New York City Department of Health. Our annual impact report can be accessed here.

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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Chile
  • India
  • Mozambique
  • Peru
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
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In which countries do you plan to deploy your solution within the next 3 years?

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas, The
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • Chile
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Jamaica
  • Laos
  • Mozambique
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Suriname
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Aruba
  • Curacao
  • Cayman Islands
  • Sint Maarten
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Myanmar
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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and the next 3 years? How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Financial

We have seed funding to build on the work we started in 2020. Additional funds are required to grow and sustain a federated core of global researchers to extend this work, as well as to support educational and training outreach programs targeting policy makers and responders. 

Policy 

Policy and ethical frameworks around the use of this data are new and have numerous interesting and conflicting considerations. Determining who can use this data across many different governments and organizations while maintaining equity, privacy, and meeting regulatory requirements is time consuming, and not always clear. Our work on the Radcliffe exploratory seminars in 2021 seeks to address these challenges, by creating multi-stakeholder consensus on the correct approach, in the absence of regulation.

Access to response agencies

Due to the pandemic, government agencies have limited bandwidth to engage with new partners, technologies or processes, after the deluge of novel solutions presented in 2020 largely failed. To be successful, we must demonstrate early success with a couple of response agencies, preferably in two very different contexts. 

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If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link or upload a video here.

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More About Your Team

What type of organisation is your solution team?

Collaboration of multiple organisations
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List any organisations that you are formally affiliated with or working for

Academics from Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, UChicago, Berkeley, and 12 countries outside the US, and with technology companies Facebook, Mapbox, Cuebiq, Google, Safegraph, and Camber Systems. Formal agreements in process with the California Department of Public Health; and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, US Department of Health and Human Services.

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Partnership & Growth Opportunities

Why are you applying to The Trinity Challenge?

The Trinity Challenge ecosystem can help us accelerate our DATA+METHODS+TRANSLATIONAL Readiness goals through data access, expertise, and timely financial support as outlined elsewhere.

CrisisReady’s mission is tightly aligned with that of the Challenge. Key barriers to the effective use of human mobility data are access, and the absence of methods that address representativeness, interoperability and uncertainty associated with these data. The rich repositories of mobility data and related health data that the Trinity Challenge Data Catalog already advertises, are exactly the sorts of datasets that our federated network of researchers are comfortable working with, and can use to develop a suite of useable tools for local teams of researchers and policy makers that have limited bandwidth, resources and training. The White Paper on safe, fair, responsible and equitable use of human mobility data, scheduled for release in July 2021, is also well aligned with the themes raised in the Data Protection and Privacy section of TC’s Educational Catalog , which we hope to learn from and contribute to. 

We would thus work with TC’s technology partners and research networks to build solutions to address urgent operational needs identified by local planners (and represented in TC’s “challenge areas.”)

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What organisations would you like to partner with, why, and how would you like to partner with them?

In addition to the existing relationships listed earlier in this application, we seek to partner with the following organizations internationally (and have their provisional approval):

South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA)

http://www.sacema.org/

Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU)

https://www.tropmedres.ac/units/moru-bangkok

Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health

https://sph.nus.edu.sg/

Among Trinity Challenge Members, we wish to collaborate with Google on their mobility data, and eventually on their other novel datastreams like the real-time wildfire boundary maps that have only just begun publishing. Collaborations with Optum and Palantir will help us explore the possibility of making anonymized aggregated clinically relevant data available to a wider community of scientists in a privacy perceiving manner - at least during public health emergencies - than is currently possible. 

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Solution Team

  • Dr Satchit Balsari Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine; and of Global Health and Population, Harvard University | CrisisReady
  • Dr. Caroline Buckee Professor of Epidemiology; Associate Director, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Dr. Andrew Schroeder VP of Research and Analysis, Direct Relief
  • Navin Vembar Chief Technology Officer, Camber Systems
 
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