Indigenous Peoples’ Data During COVID-19: From External to Internal

Governments have used real-time data and disease trackers quantifying the size, spread, and distribution of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) that emerged in 2019 to inform and influence decision and policy making. Indigenous Peoples have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, whether through infection, fatality, economic losses, or changes to social interactions. While Indigenous Peoples need timely, relevant, high-quality data to inform their own pandemic response, the collection and use of such data are not without risk. In recent months, concerns have been raised around data harms, group privacy, consent, racist surveillance, algorithmic profiling, and more.

This paper explores the particular issues that COVID-19 has highlighted for Indigenous Peoples focusing on data for governance. Drawing on current global examples, we underscore the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in COVID-19 activities as the basis of data-related policy recommendations to increase the use of timely, relevant data for decision-making while reducing risk and harms. 

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