The unforeseen jolt as the world encounters one of the deadliest pandemic “Corona virus Disease” (COVID-19), due to the threat of an extremely virulent species of the virus popularly known as “Corona Virus”, responsible for the fatal disease, seems to have radically altered the society and emphatically impacted the global geopolitical landscape. The insidious promptness of its spread may be reflective as one of the side effects of a “virtual world” or a world advocating renouncement of territorial boarders. The plight of globalisation, may be pessimistically attributed the cause of the surreptitious global mayhem. It is a classic spectacle of the rare misfortune of having a seamless advancement particularly in the modes of ease of global transportation and doing business. Notwithstanding the fact, that science and technology plays an important role in combating the pandemic. The analysis of the combat plan can be studied under two strategic heads: First, National response to the pandemic and; Second, International collaborative responses and learning.
The unforeseen jolt as the world encounters one of the deadliest pandemic “Coronavirus Disease” (COVID-19), due to the threat of an extremely virulent species of the virus popularly known as “Corona Virus”, responsible for the fatal disease,seems to haveradically altered the society and emphatically impacted the global geopolitical landscape.The insidious promptness of its spread may be reflective as one of the side effects ofa “virtual world” or a world advocating renouncement of territorial boarders. The plight of globalisation, may be pessimistically attributed the cause of the surreptitious global mayhem. It is a classic spectacle of the rare misfortune of having a seamless advancement particularly in the modes of ease of global transportation and doing business. Notwithstanding the fact, that science and technology plays an important role in combating the pandemic. The analysis of the combat plan can be studied under two strategic heads: First, National response to the pandemic and; Second, International collaborative responses and learning. Other than the myriad strategic measures including social measures (viz. Social Distancing, Quarantining, etc.), political measures (viz. National and Federal Lockdowns, etc.), economic measures (viz. Emergency Aids, Financial Bailouts etc.) adopted by various countries and their respective governments, one of the most effective tools to understand, device a strategic approach andexecute the same to combat themenace and the threat has been the usefulness of the ever-growing “data” and its prompt and ease ofsharing.The use of various surveillance systems, data mining techniques to understand the indicative trends and patterns helpful to track the spread, and biomedical endeavours to utilise the artificial intelligence to classify, predict and diagnose the disease to prepare integrated data is imperativetodeal with the perpetually growing crisis. At this hour when the whole world is coping to stand on its feet, only one thing provides hope tothe scientific community and that is rapid data collection its analysis and assessment for medical and strategicpolicy making to save the humanity.
This article attempts to project the importance of “data” and its sharing and seeks to establish the impact of prompt and seamless sharing of authentic and vital“data” in developing or impeding international relations. Substantiating the criticality and importance of “data”, it is argued that “data” is the very key or basis on which a disease is globally classified viz. Epidemic,Pandemic etc.The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the US institution which is functional in collecting and overseeing data and directing appropriate response(s) to a particular disease occurrence, relies purely on data analysis. One of the preferred and primary ways of describing the level of occurrence and its magnitude of a contagious disease outbreak by CDC[i] is done after the data analysis measuring:
- “Reproduction Rate” i.e. the pattern and speed by which a disease moves.
- “Critical Community Size” i.e. the size of the susceptible population.
Moreover, at the same time the veracity and validity of “data” is of utmost importance. Simply said, immature or unfounded or insufficient data can be a potent mislead. For example, in such a pandemic (where time is critical as it stands between millions of life and deaths) if a doctor treats a relatively less number of patients and observes certain drugs or good practices which (he believes) may have paid positive result may be a useful anecdotal input but may not serve as a “reliable data” owing to its quantum and uniform or universal veracity. Yet another limitation which may adversely impact quality and quantity of “data”can be argued to be in the cases, wherein a state owing to political face-saving and adverse international business, may choose to project and share incorrect and insufficient data or mask or refuse to share vital primary data.
The speedy proliferation of COVID-19 across the globe has brought the big data analytic techniques to the forefront, wherein relevant “data” from across the globe is pouring-in for monitoring and analysis by the established world renowned research institutions. Till now whatever information the world has about the nature of the Corona virus can be credited to cooperative indiscriminate “data sharing” by the effected countries without prejudice.“Data analytics”and its unbridled global sharing helped in documenting the spread of the pandemic and spotting the “hotspots” which further helped the governments to device, instant and dynamic national and international strategiesand policies. Organizations like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud have come forward to provide free access to utilise their datasets and analytical tools for research endeavours for enablingexpeditious development to resolve, arrest, retard, and control to the pandemic. The initiative like “genome data sharing” by Nextflu[i] which takes real time virus genome sequencing, the Global Influenza, Surveillance Network “GISN” which shares analysis of virus data, National Institute of Health genetic sequencing database and, the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium “ISARIC” are some of the multiple “data sharing”global initiatives for public health. Scientists are relentlessly striving to develop remedies through molecular modelling with the help of artificial intelligence, pharmacological and genomic databases. Scope of data analytics may not be restricted exclusively for scientific research; instead it should be extended for extensive research and use in other domains to maximize public services for mass development and benefit of knowledge. It also would ensure demystify (mis)information and help in propagating factual basis to understand the as is status and enable proactive preparedness and prophylaxis.
The advancement in technology for processing “data”and its use for sharing health surveillance is not only essential (in current situation) but also is the only prevalent antidoteto the pandemic. Data processing not only enables to processes gigantic data pool “big data” in its myriad combinations, across the globe to identify outbreaks, but also provides various possible simulations to predict the future course of the virus to set the alarm pre-emptively.
The significance of data sharing for prevention and control of various infectious diseases can be seen as an important strategy to buildand fortifies strong international relations in the crucial hours. It affirms to a worldwide cumulative approach to deal with an instant pandemic.In recent years quite a few health emergencies like Avian Influenza (H7N9), Malaria, SARS, Nipah, Swine Flu (H1N1), Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), etcand now the deadliest one COVID-19(impacting 184 nations as on date) have drawn urgent attention towards the requirement of effective communication and “data sharing” between the national and international health organizations. The pandemic has by and large once again brought the world together for the obvious reasons of limited national capability to take the imminent threat individually in silos.A collective and well coordinated approach by all the nation-states to share reliable and accurate data has the potential to prove to be a great endeavour against the pandemic. Perhaps!This will also develop and embolden the diplomatic relations between the states.
International Health Regulations 2005 “(IHR)”, is the global legal framework for the public health operations of WHO[i].It specifies the prevention, control and assessment of the global spread of a particular disease. In times of crucial pandemic crisis, global information sharing becomes essentialas it provides guidelines and renders itself as a source of research to alleviate the disease. The coordinated “big data” flow updated on a real timebasis helpsanalysis of the disease impact globally and locally. It helps in the mapping of the foot prints to enable reasonable predictions in line of saving millions of life. These accumulated sets of data become major source of research and findingsenabling attainment and redefining of clinical objectives. However, non-availability or failure to share data on time could also lead to disastrous outcomes.International data standards and the difference in the data standards of various countriessometimes become the crucial underlying gap. It hampers extremely tempero-spatially sensitive ongoing research. Greater collective, cohesive and orchestrated data sharing with transparency amongst the countries is the call for duty and need of the hour. Such transparency, proactivity and responsiveness in sharing of real time “big data” is a definitive strategy yielding to build global international relations to enable a collated and collective global fight against the pandemic.
Data Diplomacy an Effective Fit in the Rubric of International Relations:
Diplomacy is a set of practicing skills for negotiations adopted as a standard by the nation states in representing a country. Data analytics as a technique and sharing of the resultscan be an important tool for diplomatic leverages. Particularly in a situation wherein, the outbreak of a pandemic which does not distinguishes between international alliances or rivalries, transparency in “big data” sharing (notwithstanding the privacy rights, if they do not outweigh the national and global benefits of sharing) to curb, control and foray a global solution should be considered as a potent and powerful diplomatic tool. It is herein asserted that in constructive mode “data diplomacy”connects,develops and even mends relation among the states.This can be safely considered as one rare occasion wherein data sharing enables bridging the gaps and connecting the dots to build the edifice of a robust international relation. It serves as a tool to infuse trust and sometimes works akin to pressure valves to release tension between states.
Data diplomacy in international relations sits within the matrix of data and its sharing, the state and its government, their social norms and its anticipated usefulness for the future. Knowing these facts data diplomacy in international relations can be performed in such a way that it should have least hurdles and blockades while it reaches the implementation stage for its potential stakeholders. Importantly it must be understood that data diplomacy deserves a special status in fostering international relations. It occupies a seat much higher to that of a regular and mundane diplomatic policy between nations inter se. Its potency is such powerful that it can overthrow festering past international adversaries and build robust novel icebreaking structures on one hand and invigorate new energy to synergize existing trust alliances on the otherhand. “Data sharing” eventually can play an important role in preventive diplomacy. Especially under a given circumstance, wherein the states understands their existing limitations, and draw common minimum compliance agenda, in agreement to works together to build confidence, the principle of preventive diplomacy may serve as an option with the use of a diplomatic tool i.e. “data sharing”.
“Rapid”and “valid” data sharing is extremely essential for public health system across the world. It is also the appropriate time to identify, and try to help the nations where data sharing is an issue and not so smooth owing to reasons viz. inadequate infrastructure to collate and share data, under-developed systems to arrest and validate adequate data, inadequate or inappropriate communication and diplomatic machinery for instant data sharing inter or intra state level etc. These are the states with under-develop global data standards, and hence forms crevices and delays in datasets. However, there are examples wherein, significant efforts to strive for improvisation can also be narrated which is illustrative of raising the internal bar of under developed data standards. Recently, Taiwan’s big data analytics has met the objective; it was able to link the medical records from the healthcare sector to the customs and immigration records efficiently to track the suffering people with COVID-19. The best way to be in interconnectivity with the world is to develop interconnectivity best practices within the national data system and to create Standard Operating Procedures “SoPs” for establishing homogenous data standards. The initiative for legislative harmonisation that supports global data sharing through global data governance within the ethical framework is essential and need of the hour.
A few suggestions to drive-in rigour and order in “data sharing”, the powerful tool of international diplomacy includes establishment of SoPs relating to exigent situations like the one in cases of global health related and disaster related challenges posed viz. a pandemic. Moreover, a few areas of concern which serve as bottle necks inseamless functioning of “data sharing” are conspicuous viz. data sharing related to public health surveillance should also meet ethical norms, optimum usage and also equitable distribution of benefits when the sharing takes place at global level between multilateral stakeholders. Certain SoPs to regulate the fear and concern relating to flouting of right to privacy, phishing, hacking, spamming and such other cyber crimes must be roped in while developing and adopting an internationally accepted sui generis regulation for such global exigencies. SoP enabling equitable model of “data sharing”, removing (or at least narrowing) the challenges regarding “data sharing disparity” between the developed and developing countries, owing to capacity differences in data analysis and interpretation tools and techniques must find preferences in such proposed sui generis model regulation. A systemic global regulation, for access and collation of the world data “Big Data” to enable fight a global crisis such as the instant pandemic would go a long way in expeditious management of such unwarranted and lurking threats.Thus, an effective “data sharing” reserves the potential to pave the way for founding a unique global jurisprudence, acceptable by the world community disregarding all political boundaries to fight against a global menace.
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Preventive Diplomacy, https://unchronicle.un.org/article/preventive-diplomacy-united-nations