Can AI Help Cure the COVID-19 Infodemic? Applying Advanced Data Analytics to the Problem of Misinformation During the Vaccine Roll-Out
25 Feb 2021 1:11 pm by Mark Dunn
Natural language processing, data analytics and numerous AI-enabled technologies have been applied to the challenges of a global pandemic—from an increased use of smart technology in the healthcare industry to AI-enhanced contact tracing programmes. Now, some organisations are turning to big data and AI to help manage vaccine supply chains and distribution networks; others are using intelligent technologies to tackle the problem of widespread misinformation concerning both the pandemic itself and COVID-19 vaccines.
Managing supply chain risk leaps to the front of the line
According to McKinsey's recent "Resetting Supply Chains for the Next Normal" report, a majority of supply chain leaders said that the global pandemic "revealed weaknesses in their supply chains that they're now working to address." AI-enabled technologies and a wide variety of data are sure to be a part of the transformation for the 93% of respondents looking to improve supply chain resillience. Unfortunately, the vaccine roll-out highlights how far organisations have to go in efforts to maximise efficiencies and mitigate risks in the supply chain.
Globally, vaccination against COVID-19 is finally underway. While some countries, such as Israel and the United Kingdom have already made substantial progress; others face an uphill battle to get their populations vaccinated.
From the vaccine’s procurement, and often delicate storage requirements to aligning distribution and administration to shifting regional needs and tracking administration of vaccines, data-driven strategies are crucial.
Public and private entities involved in the production, procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines can integrate critical data into AI-enabled workflows, using the data-driven insights to efficiently identify risks—unexpected weather events, spikes in infection rates, negative sentiment—and quickly pivot to meet new challenges. And it’s not just the supply chain that can benefit from AI and big data.
Uncovering potential problems with adverse news feeds
In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified vaccine hesitancy— the reluctance to et vaccines when they are available—as one of the ten biggest threats to global health. The COVID-19 pandemic amplifed this challenge dramatically. Against the backdrop of the most severe global health crisis in a century, anti-vaccine activists have undermined the public’s trust in the safety of vaccines with conspiracy theories and misinformation campaigns.
Many of these efforts take place online, targeting international and national regulatory bodies such as the WHO or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), vaccine producers and even local healthcare officials. Since the start of the pandemic social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been heavily criticised for their inconsistent approach to dealing with the issue of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news. According to The Guardian, the anti-vaccine movement has witnessed a huge influx of followers across different platforms, gaining more than 10 million followers in the past year.
The increased activity of conspiracy theorists and vaccine opponents has made it more difficult for government and healthcare officials to get their message across to the public. At the same time, the sheer quantity of content concerning this topic has grown dramatically, making it harder for anybody to distinguish between misinformation and verified facts.
That’s where enriched news data can empower organisations. Public health entities and healthcare marketing firms can take advantage of general or adverse news feeds to shape and adjust their communication strategies to correct misinformation and improve vaccine adoption. Recent reports also suggest that similar AI-technologies, such as natural language processing, can help detect and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 misinformation in social networks.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s clear that an array of increasingly sophisticated AI applications will help pave the way to a new, more resilient normal.