Notícies > The governments speak: what were and are the challenges regarding data management during Covid-19?

The governments speak: what were and are the challenges regarding data management during Covid-19?

19 May 2020

We asked the authorities in Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia about the challenges they have faced with regard to personal data management during the pandemic. This is what they said.

On Thursday 14th, with its sight set on 17th May, World Information Society Day, the .cat Foundation organised a debate on the challenges of the authorities, companies and activists regarding personal data management during the pandemic. The debate included a panel of VIPs: the director of Xnet, Simona Levi; Nuria Oliver, head of data science at DataPop Alliance; and the former director general of the digital and technology department for the Balearic Islands government, Benjamí Villoslada. In general, all three debated the dilemmas involved in the use of data by the technological solutions that have arisen to face the collapse of the healthcare system, from geolocation apps to self-diagnosis tools. The limits and opportunities of the prevailing European regulation in this case were considered, and initiatives by other countries and their respective legal frameworks were compared. There was also time to discuss the proposal that have been debated over recent months. You can listen to the entire conversation here:

In order to involve the governments from the three Catalan-speaking regions in this discussion, we asked them some questions. This is what they said:

Ana Berenguer, Director-general for Analysis and Public Policies for the Generalitat Valenciana and head of Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

One of the main lines of work at the Generalitat Valenciana —prior to the rise of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus— is its firm support for data analysis and the promotion of Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with the strategies of technological renewal and digitalisation. The main goal of the AI Strategy of the region of Valencia, which was presented last year, is to use and promote the knowledge related to big data to help improve the living conditions of its citizens.

And this is exactly what has been done, applied to the current scenario as a result of Covid-19. The appearance of the disease is an (unfortunate) opportunity to integrate AI and data management as another tool to help make decisions related to the protection of health. Through its commissioner for the Artificial Intelligence Strategy in Valency Generalitat, Nuria Oliver, the Generalitat has set up initiatives such as the analysis of mobility via mobile phones, Data Science For COVID-19, or the Covid19Impact survey that analysis the behaviour of citizens in relation to the disease, among other issues.

All the information obtained in this work has been incorporated into the scorecard for the pandemic —along with clinical, healthcare, epidemiological data, etc.— which is being used as the basis by the Generalitat to manage the crisis.

Ramon Roca, Director-General for Modernisation and Digital Administration for the Balearic Islands Government.

During the weeks we have been living with Covid-19, the public authorities have had to face different challenges regarding data. The first related to its support. Working from home has always been an actuality for the public authorities, with the great obstacle of having to work with paper. Even with on-line procedures, some essential form in paper format was always required. The need to provide the authorities with continuity from home has pointed to three things. The first is that most obstacles weren’t technical but cultural, the second that an authority with zero paper is possible, and the third that the mobile devices used don’t necessary have to belong to the authorities. A balance between security and practicality that is complicated yet necessary.

In terms of security, we have had to be very careful with cyberattacks these days, as the authorities (and businesses) have opened new, relatively unexplored systems, such as remote access to software or video-conferencing tools, some of which proved to be quite insecure.
An important aspect to manage during this difficult situation is to balance the need to provide a service for access to data, processes and procedures with security. On one hand, we have had to leave the doors wide open, as they were only half-open before, and on the other procedures that were previously quite a difficult fit in our arrangements, such as on-line plenary sessions.

In terms of healthcare, different initiatives have arisen that have proven that information systems are currently a very important mainstay in the fight against this pandemic. Contract tracing software such as DP-3T is on the table at European, national and regional level as fundamental and basic tools. The European model recommends combining efficiency with anonymity, security and a non-invasion of privacy. This model, which began in Europe, is the model that is also being adopted by giants such as Google and Apple to fight this pandemic. Technology allows for the circle to be squared and for a secure, efficient system to be provided that respects privacy in exchange for requesting significant citizen collaboration. It might be said that it’s an adult system for adults.

Another important challenge we are facing is the application of artificial intelligence for the diagnosis and assessment of this disease using medical data. There is still a long way to go in this area, and international collaboration will be required to create major projects that successfully apply this technology. Initially, the first requirements, the first great need will be for big data over a wide range to analyse this data. An important and necessary challenge in which security, privacy and data play a leading role.

Department of Digital Policies (PDA) for the Generalitat de Catalunya.

  • The Department of Digital Policies (PDA) at the Generalitat is working on a model for the extensive use of data to encourage the best digitalisation possible and efficient, effective public services in line with the fundamental rights that form the foundations of Europe. The so-called “third model”.
  • Work was carried out on these policies by the PDA during the previous term (DiDeures charter, Data governance model, Data protection organisation, IdentiCAT, Cybersecurity, etc.).
  • During a pandemic is when this philosophy of using data to fight Covid-19 while fully respecting citizen rights becomes more intensely applied.

About CONFINAPP, the Department’s app: Confinapp was created to provide a service to citizens during lockdown and lockdown easing. In terms of data protection:

  • In the app itself, no personal data is requested and, therefore, there is no data processing (just to explain and not sound so ambiguous, no data is requested in the app itself, but it is in the certificates function).
  • A user profile can be voluntarily registered that does not require personal data.
  • The data obtained is used for statistics: types of profile, results of surveys, results of the speed test and certificate of self-responsibility for travel.
  • In terms of the certificate of self-responsibility, personal data is requested on the form. This data:
    • Is saved to the cloud so that users don’t have to fill in their details every time, thus improving the user experience.
    • This personal data isn’t processed in any other way.
    • The data is processed anonymously for statistics purposes: certificates requested, reason for travel, etc.
  • The app doesn’t include a geolocation service.
  • Confinapp was designed based on a series of guiding principles: to respond to a general interest, joint responsibility, transparency, and anonymity of data to create a relationship of trust between the Authorities and citizens.

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