By the time COVID-19 was announced as a Public Health Emergency at the end of January 2020, the need for more data to understand both the virus and its impacts was clear. Now, more than ever before, data are needed to support decision-making on developing effective solutions that meet the needs of all, including marginalised populations like migrant workers, Indigenous Peoples, ethnic and religious minorities, refugees, and women. Yet, long-standing gaps in the global data environment, highlighted by the current crisis, remain a hindrance to effective, evidence-based decision-making.
In the Mekong region, the data ecosystem is composed of government institutions such as National Statistics Offices (NSOs) and ministerial level departments as the primary and authoritative data producers and stewards, as well as not-for-profits, academia and the private sector who contribute formally and informally. Meanwhile, the nascent open data community contributes to citizen verification and oversight. Data constituents range widely, from journalists to academics, civil servants to students, business analysts and NGOs. From collection to analysis, their interactions with data, processes, technology and each other along each step of the way impacts decision-making. Using the pandemic as a magnifying glass, we take a look at how the data ecosystem impacts the region’s most vulnerable populations during the current pandemic.