Better data for safe economic reactivation

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Peru is among the world’s hardest-hit countries by the pandemic. To date, it has the largest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world. It turns out that the lockdown established in the country in May last year was only respected in richer parts of the country. 

Was this foreseeable in existing data? Yes. As revealed in Peru’s National Household Survey (ENAHO), only 22% of poor households own a refrigerator, and hence, shop for groceries on a daily basis. Studies conducted in markets by Peru’s National Health Institute detected the virus in 8 out of 10 of market workers. 

Similarly, as Peru managed its cash transfers to vulnerable households through the formal banking system, banks became hotspots for disease transmission as most people did not have bank accounts and had to agglomerate outside the offices branches waiting for their turn to come in and withdraw cash. 

Another area, the mining industry, was among those economic activities closed down for more than 2 months in 2020, even though it presented the lowest cases of infection and could have significantly reduced total economic losses which amounted to 11% of GDP in 2020. 

Paradoxically, Peru has a solid health and economic data infrastructure ranked in the top fifth in the world according to the World Bank’s Statistical Capacity Indicators. The data referenced above is trustworthy and readily available. So why aren’t Peru and other countries around the world using the dearth of relevant data and knowledge to fine-tune their health and economic decisions during the pandemic?

The data-to-action journey

In Peru, production of reliable, even timely data is far from sufficient to ensure that knowledge and intelligence is used. Relevant variables need to be picked out from the terabytes of downloadable data, integrated and correctly arranged and systematized to provide useful insights related to the pandemic’s complex problems.

If data is to be turned into action, its needs to enable fast and intelligent decisions by speaking directly to the policy dilemma of the moment. In most countries, data of relevance to management and response to COVID-19 is not making the full journey from data to intelligence to action.


    Basado en las ilustraciones de David Somerville y Hugh McLeod.
    Basado en las ilustraciones de David Somerville y Hugh McLeod.

    Based on Cartoon by David Somerville and Hugh McLeod

    Intelligence Rooms: A bridge in the data to action journey 

    The government of Peru realized that data was falling through the cracks due to the fragmentation of data and decision-making processes, and lack of timeliness of reporting. The World Bank worked with the government to bring together health and economic data to illuminate the connections between the spread of the virus and the decisions made to reopen the economy. 

    Leveraging its familiarity with health and economic data in Latin America and inspired by a similar experience in Colombia (Colombia dashboard), the government worked with the World Bank to formalize processes for data integration across 17 different datasets within the health sector, in addition to economic data. 

    The COVID-19 Intelligence Room aggregates data into 5 indices that seek to answer 5 key policy questions: 

    1. COVID-19 Index: How fast and severely is COVID-19 spreading throughout the country?
    2. Response Capacity Index: How prepared is the health sector to respond to sudden surges in need?
    3. Vulnerability Index: Which populations are most epidemiologically and socioeconomically unprotected against the virus?
    4. Economic Priority Index: Which economic activities should we most urgently reopen given their contribution to employment and income?
    5. Safe Return Index: Which economic activities are most safe to reopen given contagion risk among workers?

    These indices and the indicators that comprise them are updated daily and can be disaggregated to the district level, facilitating powerful and actionable information to be generated for decision-making.

     Dashboard for Peru

    Stepping into the Intelligence Room

    The institutional effort required to set up the COVID-19 Intelligence Room brought about the formation of the Intelligence Unit within Peru’s Ministry of Health, which will safeguard data-to-policy governance moving forward. 

    On July 13, the COVID-19 Intelligence Room and the Intelligence Unit were launched in a live event with the participation of the World Bank. In our effort to replicate such tools for better pandemic-related decision making across the world, we invite you to step into the COVID-19 Intelligence Room and reflect upon the impact it could have in your country or in your sector of interest. 

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