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News in numbers: Data is having its day in the light of the Covid-19 crisis

Posted by Elaine Birch on 30th March 2020

I have always been a words girl. Ask anyone who knows me, it’s a running joke. When it comes to words, spelling, grammar, writing – I’m your girl. Numbers? Show me a sum, a spreadsheet, data tables and I pretty much run a mile.

Yet something has shifted in the wake of this awful Covid-19 crisis. In these crazy, uncertain times, I – like many others, I suspect – am turning to numbers and data to help me make sense of what is unfolding. The first thing I do each day is check the figures – how fast is the disease spreading, how many cases are there in my area, how do we compare to other countries?

Making sense of the senseless

I consume line graphs, pie charts and data tables like they are going out of fashion. Why? Because in a world that makes little sense at the moment, it’s these numbers and, most importantly, the visual representation of them, that are allowing us to piece the facts together.

Major news outlets such as the BBC, The Guardian and Sky News all have sections dedicated to maps and charts on the virus, which are updated daily to track developments.

John Hopkins University, now with its own coronavirus resource centre, has fast become the number one source for data visualisations regarding the virus, with several graphs, maps and animations showing its progression.

The power of data

So why do these numbers, graphs and charts make such an impact on us? Coronavirus aside, data has always had the power to paint a picture and tell a story. Data in its number form is a compelling source of evidence – we often find ourselves asking ‘show me the numbers’, if presented with a theory or a point of view. To explain just how big a part data plays in our lives, here are some facts from Forbes:

“At the beginning of the last decade, IDC estimated that 1.2 zettabytes (1.2 trillion gigabytes) of new data were created in 2010, up from 0.8 zettabytes the year before. The amount of the newly created data in 2020 was predicted to grow 44X to reach 35 zettabytes (35 trillion gigabytes). Two years ago, we were already at 33 zettabytes, leading IDC to predict that in 2025, 175 zettabytes (175 trillion gigabytes) of new data will be created around the world.”

However, data has even more potential to engage and inform if presented visually. What was simply a list of figures can be instantly transformed into a tangible, compelling visual, tracking a trajectory, showing a trend or indicating a majority.

How tech brands can help – trend tracking and analysis

Many brands and businesses all over the world are currently facing a fight to survive as the economy plummets, jobs disappear, and communities lock down. For technology brands with access to and ownership of precious data, there is a real opportunity now to provide a lifeline of support to businesses facing uncertainty. For many of us, this is the first time in our lifetime that we have seen a situation emerge and change so rapidly, making such an impact in so little time without warning.

Real-time trackers, daily updates and analysis charts tracking developments in sectors such as finance, retail and pharma are crucial for those needing to predict trends and stay ahead of unfolding events. Now is the time to reach out and help the world through the power of information – it may be a small step, but in these times, it’s the small steps that can make a big difference. Who knew? I may be a numbers girl after all…

Elaine Birch

Passionate about building and nurturing client relationships, Elaine loves the challenge of getting to the heart of what her clients want to achieve and designing smart and strategic PR programmes to suit. A keen and talented writer, Elaine loves to delve deep into a technical subject and wordsmith it into engaging, cut through content. Her love of words extends to outside of work as well, where she enjoys writing poetry, journaling and reading. She also is the office lipstick aficionado, with a shade for every mood!