The world’s biggest search engine is using its technology and reach into people’s lives to examine the effectiveness of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) countermeasures. It has used location data to determine visits to high frequency locations such as workplaces, recreational and retail outlets and parks; among others.
India has seen a 77 per cent decline in retail and recreation visits in the latest report compared to a baseline for a 5-week period ending February 6, 2020. This includes places like movie theatres, cafes and restaurants.
Grocery and pharmacy visits are down 65 per cent. Parks have seen a 57 per cent fall. Transit stations such as bus stops, subway or train stations are down 71 per cent. Workplaces saw a 47 per cent decline in visits. Residential is the only segment with an increase, as expected during a lockdown, up 22 per cent.
“We’ll show trends over several weeks, with the most recent information representing 48-to-72 hours prior. While we display a percentage point increase or decrease in visits, we do not share the absolute number of visits. To protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point,” according to Google’s statement on the subject.
The search engine is also working with select epidemiologists to lend its data to better understand and also predict the path of the pandemic. It said that the data used to generate the reports have been anonymised to protect user privacy.
Government officials can use the data to better plan transport options such as increasing buses or trains to help prevent crowding and meet the goals of social distancing, it said.
The data in the report seemed to be from the first week into the lockdown announced on March 25th. The nationwide lockdown has been a bid to reduce the spread of the disease which has already affected a million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Deaths have exceeded 58,000. India has around 3,000 cases and deaths are approaching 70 according to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data available on Saturday.