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A Virus in the Information Age

A Virus in the Information Age

The proliferation of online news and social media makes it hard to see the truth of what is happening in times like these, but scientists across the world have been using information systems to allow people to see the truth. This article discusses how scientists have used tools such as social media to share information.

by Robert Polding, professor of Information Systems at IE University.



COVID-19 is unquestionably a challenge, because it is a physically difficult illness to deal with and there was a resulting panic like no other in recent history, especially in the media. The proliferation of online news and social media makes it hard to see the truth of what is happening, but scientists across the world have been using information systems to allow people to see the truth of what is happening, despite governments and leaders trying to hold back on information.

The initial days of the virus in 2019 were dark days from an information perspective. The Chinese government was not transparent with the information released, and there were many rumors of police suppressing people who tried to talk about the spread of the disease. Soon, it became inevitable that they could not keep this information to themselves, and the effect spread globally.

Social media

The next barrier in terms of the truth was social media, where fake news was being published that caused panic and social unrest. The results of this made an already bad situation worse, with people panic buying because they had read that there would be shortages of commodities ranging from toilet roll to meat. The effect of this misinformation was to make people leave home and head to the supermarkets with thousands of other people, a result that cannot be good when a virus is so easily spread between people in proximity.

John Hopkins University has been working tirelessly to provide an information dashboard to the world that has shown the real situation, with none of the claims from politicians impeding the real truth. The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) comprises researchers who collaborate with the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering (CaSE) at Johns Hopkins University. They claim to be “united by the goal to better understand and improve societal, health, and technological systems for everyone”*. They have been working around the clock to ensure that unbiased information is available and that it is constantly accurate and up-to-date, and they have allowed the less biased media outlets such as the BBC to publish accurate and realistic insights into the spread of the disease.

The “Chinese virus”

While Donald Trump has been proclaiming that the “Chinese virus” was barely a threat to his nation, the public could see the progress of the virus and see that his statements were merely poor attempts to hide the truth. They have provided an academic light in these dark times that has allowed anyone, from a worried citizen to the government, with a reliable and trustworthy place to keep track of the situation. They have made the data from their studies available to scientists around the world, and through their hard work are giving us the ability so see the effects of all the efforts to contain and restrict the spread of the disease.

In an age that is defined by information, the researchers of John Hopkins University have provided a lifeline of truth. Along with the medics, police, supermarket workers and pharmacists in the world who have kept day-to-day life going for us, these scientists are also examples of people who are helping immensely. To see their efforts for yourself, visit https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.


* Quote taken from https://systems.jhu.edu/