I was reluctant to enter this media frenzy about H1N1 flu (or whatever we end up calling it…), but only 8% of telephone respondents are “not concerned at all” about these events, so I thought I’d say something more than nothing.
Information technology’s main contribution so far has been the rapid spread of misinformation: for example, eating pork is no less safe than usual, despite rumors to the contrary twittering around the globe.
But there is an opportunity for IT to shine a little bit, too. I’m optimistic about Ushihidi’s web2.0 approach to “crowdsourcing crisis information”. Definitely something I can spend too much time looking at.
Have yinz already seen Google Flu? It’s a project by google.org, in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s been getting healthy press coverage for the last two weeks or so. And, if you want to dig deeper, a draft manuscript on their approach is also available.
The headline result of this approach to tracking flu outbreaks is that it is fast: google.org can observe flu trends two weeks before the CDC. And it is accurate enough, with correlations of 0.85-0.98 between the search-result-based estimate and the gold-standard rates produced by the CDC.
I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, but first let me praise it.