Data Science: Our Ultimate Weapon Against COVID-19?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 to be a pandemic. With shutdowns everywhere, the deadly virus has almost brought the world to a standstill, apart from taking thousands of lives. Already having affected over 219,345 people across the globe and close to 171 people in India, this virus still doesn’t seem to have peaked and can potentially cause more disruptions than it already has. To make matters worse, the disease is highly contagious, making it incredibly important to come up with quick solutions. This is where Artificial Intelligence and Data Science come into the picture.

Artificial Intelligence and Data Science are behind the scenes driving cutting edge research on COVID-19. Researchers from all over the world rely on Data Science to combat the spread of the virus by deploy vaccines and suggest new strategies to quarantine and prevent this disease. Also, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are working with analytics and big data to find a lasting solution for coronavirus through research.

Numerous intelligent systems have been developed with the help of different processes of AI and Data Science that can sift through data and determine the chances of the occurrence of the disease. Let’s talk about a few of these processes with examples.

Predictive Analysis

Predictive analytics refers to the utilization of data, machine learning techniques, and statistical algorithms to predict and analyse the likelihood of outcomes based on past data. These techniques has proven to be incredibly useful in this situation. 

In fact, AI predicted the outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019 itself using BlueDot software fueled by big data. This prediction was proven to be true when the outbreak became widespread in February 2020. BlueDot utilises machine learning and natural language processing to collect data from a large number of sources, including public health statement, digital media reports, global airline trends, animal health reports and population demographics. It was able to efficiently process huge amounts of information, every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.

This proven capability can be used to take faster action to prevent outbreaks of other variants of COVID-19 in the future.

Deep Learning

Deep learning is another subset of artificial intelligence (AI) and has networks capable of learning from unsupervised or unstructured data. Deep learning processes, such as convolutional neural network (CNN) with a significant ability of nonlinear modeling, have extensive possibilities to aid the process of combatting the virus in medical image processing. 

A revolutionary program being developed by Insilico Medicine will help doctors learn about molecules that are capable of fighting against the coronavirus, with the help of AI. This program will provide a database of molecular information that can be used by medical researchers in their projects and for fighting or preventing deadly outbreaks like the coronavirus. Data science programs are also being used to review data from different sources, like patient records, public health data and social media. With the help of this program, it is possible to understand the location-wise intensity of the outbreak. 

Deep learning has also of great help to researchers and is assisting them to develop an understanding of the movement patterns of the virus from the epicenter of the disease - Wuhan, China - to other parts the world. These data science technologies have largely contributed to researches being conducted to predict the structure of the virus and also the ways in which it can spread. These developments are playing a significant role in attempting to control this pandemic. 

Through a Natural Language Processing tool (NPL) researchers at Harvard Medical School are being able to search online information regarding the coronavirus and identifying the patterns in different locations of the outbreak. For example, this natural language processing tool is aiding in differentiating between people who are complaining about coronavirus symptoms and could potentially have the disease, and those just discussing the disease. According to the Harvard Medical School, these online media trends can be of great help in the discovery of a potential outbreak and promote increased awareness and solutions.

Graph Database

During the pandemic, big data processes like graph databases are also proving to be incredibly capable to display complex routes of interactions among groups of people and the formation of clusters. Through these processes, it is possible to map the trains, planes, and other automobiles that take them to their destinations. In particular, with the help of graph databases researchers are able to provide valuable information about the spread of the coronavirus. Graph databases are essentially created to efficiently map complex networks. 

Thus, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence are extremely useful in addressing the coronavirus outbreak as well as for preventing future pandemics. Data science has enabled us to be better informed about the trends in the spread of this pandemic, even as new cases are being reported daily.

Seeing this, one can easily say that Data Science has made its way into all the key trades of the world. Considering today’s scenario, it won’t be wrong to say that it is a good time for students to venture into this technology and build a career around Data Science. HarvardX’s Data Science Program is an excellent course that prepares students to enter the domain of Data Science and equips them with the knowledge base and skills required to tackle the challenges of data analysis. The program covers concepts on inference, probability, regression, and machine learning. It will help you to develop a relevant skill set, giving you an opportunity to excel in this highly lucrative field. 

Return to blog page