Local Governments Look to Data and AI for Post-Pandemic Decision-Making

As new information comes to light, the United States’ approach to the pandemic changes. The lulls and peaks of COVID-19 bring constant developments — from wearing masks to stay-at-home orders to vaccine distribution. Through each change, and through the full calendar year that the virus has been in the U.S., data has been at the center.

Data influences how governments, both state and local, handle the pandemic. Whether they need to shut down the state, change capacity levels, or recommend double-masking, data is what drives these decisions. Now that several vaccines are reaching citizens, data is again guiding the course of recovery — and what comes after the pandemic.

Data to Help Local Governments

The use of data to make decisions about COVID-19 is not new. However, 2021 has already brought new developments regarding the pandemic that experts must consider. Mainly, the vaccines the FDA has approved must get to residents as efficiently as possible. To do so, most state and local governments have divided up the populations into eligibility groups.

With rough estimates of eligibility based on population data, vaccine administrators can adequately plan for demand in each phase. They know that, once a certain percentage of people in phase one get the vaccine, they can expand eligibility.

As more and more people get the vaccines, local governments may need to implement ways to keep track of the vaccinated population. “Health passports” have been one main idea, where residents have an app or tool that logs the date and other information about their vaccination. This data will be essential as governments keep track of how the virus spreads or decreases while aiming for herd immunity.

These data-based developments come at a time when big data has become central for decision-making around the world. From smart tech optimizing traffic flows to predicting when the U.S. will reach herd immunity, almost everything uses data.

AI for Front-Facing Operations

Artificial intelligence came into widespread use at the beginning of the pandemic for assisting the general public with information. That form of data usage has been predominantly helpful for governments and healthcare facilities. During this time, people are constantly looking for resources about vaccines, unemployment, and health guidelines. AI makes those resources more accessible.

The wide adoption of AI chatbots has been a lifeline for many organizations. At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment shot up to 14.7%, a record-breaking high. While the U.S. is still coming down from that number, the state of Illinois has been using AI chatbots to make financial resources more accessible.

Through providing information and guiding residents, AI chatbots were able to assist more than one million people, which takes some stress off already overworked employees. The same concept applies to healthcare facilities. By fielding calls and questions about the virus and vaccines, chatbots assist more people who would otherwise be waiting to speak to staff.

These chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to continuously evolve based on human feedback. Once they encounter success or failure, they learn and are better able to assist people in the future.

AI is already widely used across industries, and that use is only increasing. In the next three years, AI investments are going to increase business revenue by 30% or more. On top of helping governments manage the crisis, AI can now help businesses get back on their feet.

Then, organizations can move towards full automation in the coming years — a gateway to expanding access and reliability across governments.

Data Is Here to Stay

This government data-based decision-making shows the way forward. To handle crises, help the general public, and aid business growth, data is necessary for it all. Without data, predicting the trajectory of the virus wouldn’t be possible. And without AI, state governments wouldn’t be able to assist residents efficiently.

Of course, privacy and transparency will always be areas of concern. Governments of all sizes must handle data with care and security. That way, no matter the obstacle, they can use data to understand the public’s needs. From there, they can create solutions.