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Collective Intelligence on Social Needs During COVID-19

citibeats logo on a navy blue background next to a laptop displaying a map with data

Beyond the public health implications of the COVID-19 crisis, the long-term social and economic effects remain uncertain. The population is likely to face varied and fast-changing social needs, so we’re helping governments respond by leveraging the collective intelligence of citizens.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, Citibeats launched collective intelligence observatories in more than 12 countries to bring real-time insights to governments, companies, and people. By analyzing millions of opinions per week, we can use citizens as a sensor to detect unmet, rising, or outlier social needs.

screenshot depicting map of south america with data next to it

Explore the Latin American and Caribbean observatory developed with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

To make these observatories as socially useful as possible, we’ve launched public sites with our clients to open up collective data contribution, analysis access, and recommended actions.

Encouraging Anonymous Data Contribution

Observatories monitor Twitter, forums, and blogs, typically covering millions of relevant civic opinions per region per week. Citibeats creates an aggregated and anonymized view on social needs based on this data.

To engage citizens in the process, public observatories include anonymous survey forms. We’ve seen civic inputs generate hundreds or thousands of additional opinions per area. Although this is small compared to the existing data, this input is an important anchor for validating the representativeness of openly available online content.

Turning Text Into Open Data Collaboratives

While our clients — governments and international organizations — use Citibeats to inform their decisions, we want to make this data available to anyone. This is why our public sites not only visualize the data but also make the processed, aggregated data downloadable.

We’re inspired by the Data Collaboratives movement by GovLab. Data Collaboratives are designed to open up data traditionally held by private companies or governments and make it accessible for the public good. In this case, we collect survey responses, Tweets, and online content, process it, anonymize it, and aggregate it into shareable numbers.

Some text sources are not widely available due to privacy concerns and/or gating. However, our processed data transforms it into publicly usable assets. Text data is also not traditionally easy to use, but our method simplifies it into a numerical output. 

screenshot from citibeats lab

Anyone can download the processed data from Citibeats through GitHub repositories via links on the public sites.

Recommend Local Civic Actions

Our clients use the Citibeats analysis to make organizational decisions, such as where to invest resources or what to communicate to citizens. However, we’ve also seen that collective intelligence could help inspire civic actions.

Within the data, Citibeats detects proposals, ideas, and innovations from local people finding creative ways to respond to their communities’ social needs. We see that people are willing to help, though much of the time they don’t know how. By detecting local initiatives and sharing them on public sites, we hope to highlight inspiring people whose actions could be replicated by others.

screenshot depicting information to assist users

How can you help? Citibeats’ public sites share inspiration generated by citizens and governments on how people can contribute to the local needs identified in their areas.

By making data insights and action recommendations as open as possible, we hope to provide valuable information to help people make an impact.