Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a tremendous socioeconomic impact around the world, the scale of which is still hard to assess.

A unique team of computer scientists, social scientists, and business leaders is being gathered to extract insights from massive datasets from the private sector, in order to provide live and actionable insights for other researchers, policymakers, and the general public, while respecting privacy.

Our objective will be to provide a rapid assessment of the impact of social-distancing policies aimed at mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to quantify the extent to which changes in mobility, social interactions, and purchasing patterns relate to health and economic outcomes at a very high resolution.

The goal of this analysis will be to provide key information to policymakers, in particular on how to improve social distancing protocols and implement economic stimulus plans in a timely, efficient, and targeted way.

Research Goals

Social Distance

Given that we do not yet have pharmaceutical solutions (e.g. vaccines) for the COVID-19 pandemic, the social engineering of our lifestyle is our only current response to the pandemic. It is therefore crucial to understand how we can improve local, national, and global policy decisions regarding how to implement social distancing to minimize infection rates. This will necessitate:
  • Careful and precise measurements of social distance and interaction, and how these respond -- causally and empirically -- to different implementations of social distancing policies.
  • Using these measurements, we are working with epidemiologists, public health officials and modeling experts to understand how to dynamically optimize social distancing policies for optimal health outcomes.

Economic Impact

Various local and national governments are considering a vast spectrum of economic relief decisions ranging from freezing rent payments for individuals to interest-free loans for businesses. In order to inform these policy decisions, it is critical to understand which demographics of people and what types of businesses are most at risk by studying changes in spending patterns.
  • Using the economic data from our data partners, we will more precisely measure the impact of the pandemic on individual and business financial health.
  • By integrating financial impact into our epidemiological models, we will more thoroughly understand the trade-off between health and economic outcomes.
Our first research contribution will be an interactive dashboard that will produce actionable insights for policy makers. Down the line, we plan to publish our findings at top-tier academic venues.

Privacy

Our team is highly experienced in developing and deploying numerous privacy-preserving research, pipelines and algorithms such as OPAL: Open Algorithms and Secure Multi-Party Computation using Blockchain.

We are deeply committed to preserving the privacy and security of the data we will be using. Our principles are:

  • We will not merge different data sources at the individual level, but will instead calculate aggregate merged statistics at the census block, county level and similarly large administrative units.
  • We will only use anonymized data with no personal identifiers.
  • We will use data at the highest level of time, space and group aggregation that still allows us to gather useful insights.
  • Working with public health practitioners and policy makers, we will only run analysis that has a net positive benefit to society.
  • The use of data will be in compliance with existing laws and ethical standards.
  • We will elect not to receive data from our data partners when possible, but instead elect to run our models on our data partner's premises and we will only transfer high-level statistics outside of their data clouds.
  • We will use state-of-the art privacy and infosec techniques and protocols.
  • We will dedicate a significant portion of our effort into researching techniques that allow for the use of sensitive data while maintaining privacy.

  

Core Research Team

Dhaval Adjodah

Research Scientist, MIT + Consultant with the World Bank

Dhaval AdjodahDhaval Adjodah is a computer scientist and policy researcher pushing the limits of modern machine learning while maximizing their social good. Currently, he is a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab where he develops new algorithms and theory using insights from causal inference, social science, and cognitive science. He is also a consultant to the World Bank, where he helps to buildg new machine learning pipelines to track and implement policy decisions at the global level. He is a member of the organizing committee of the AI for Social Good conference workshop series, and during his PhD at the MIT Media Lab, he was a visiting researcher in Prof. Yoshua Bengio’s group at MILA, a member of the Harvard Berkman Assembly on Ethics and Governance in Artificial Intelligence, and a fellow at the Dalai Lama Center For Ethics And Transformative Values.

Sam Fraiberger

Data Scientist, World Bank

Sam FraibergerSam Fraiberger is a computational social scientist fascinated by how the digitization of our lives allows us to study social processes at an unprecedented scale, using massive datasets and methods borrowed from computer science and the social sciences. He is also a firm believer in the power of data and technology to solve societal challenges. He is currently part of the Data Analytics and Tools team at the World Bank, where he focuses on extracting insights from very large datasets to tackle economic development issues. He is also a Visiting Researcher at NYU Computer Science, an MIT Connection Science Fellow, and a Senior Research Affiliate at Data-Pop Alliance. He has published his research in prestigious academic journals such as Science and presented it at TEDx. He holds a Msc from Harvard University and a PhD from New-York University.

Alex 'Sandy' Pentland

Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program Director

Alex (Sandy) PentlandProfessor Alex 'Sandy' Pentland directs MIT Connection Science, an MIT-wide initiative, and previously helped create and direct the MIT Media Lab and the Media Lab Asia in India. He is one of the most-cited computational scientists in the world, and Forbes recently declared him one of the "7 most powerful data scientists in the world" along with Google founders and the Chief Technical Officer of the United States. He is on the Board of the UN Foundations' Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, co-led the World Economic Forum discussion in Davos that led to the EU privacy regulation GDPR, and was central in forging the transparency and accountability mechanisms in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. He has received numerous awards and prizes such as theMcKinsey Awardfrom Harvard Business Review, the 40th Anniversary of the Internet from DARPA, and the Brandeis Award for work in privacy. He is a member of advisory boards for the UN Secretary General and the UN Foundation, and previously for the American Bar Association, Google, AT&T, and Nissan. He is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded more than a dozen companies including social enterprises such as the Harvard-ODI-MIT DataPop Alliance. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and leader within the World Economic Forum.

Mat Travizano

Founder CEO, GranData

Mat TravizanoMat’s passion is understanding people with data. He pursues his passion by building technology companies, conducting scientific research, and engaging in public conversations with a radical openness philosophy. Mat is the founder and CEO of Grandata, a San Francisco-based privacy-preserving data analytics company. Grandata’s partners include some of the world’s largest mobile carriers, banks, and internet companies. Mat is also the founder of Wibson, a company on a mission to empower citizens to become data owners. Previously, Mat co-founded Binaria Group, a social analytics company; and Underground Security Systems Research, an information security company. He has published his research in prestigious academic journals such as Nature Comms two years in a row, and collaborated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the use of alternative data to foster financial inclusion. Mat speaks regularly in scientific and industry conferences and is often featured in media such as Wired, Forbes, or El Pais.

  

Research Collaborators

Alex Vespignani

Director of MOBS Lab and Sternberg Family Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University

Alex VespignaniAlessandro Vespignani is the Director of the Network Science Institute and of the Modeling of Biological + Socio-technical Systems (MOBS) Lab, and the Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor with interdisciplinary appointments in the College of Computer and Information Science, College of Science and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. His research interests include complex systems and networks, and the data-driven computational modeling of epidemics. His research activity is focused on the study of “techno-social” systems, where infrastructures composed of different technological layers are interoperating within the social component that drives their use and development. His group is one of the ones advising the White House's COVID-19 policy.

Matteo Chinazzi

Senior Research Scientist, MOBS Lab, Northeastern University

Sam FraibergerMatteo Chinazzi is a Senior Research Scientist at the Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems (MOBS Lab) and Part-time Faculty at Northeastern University. His research interests include: the development of computational and analytical models to study the spatial spread of infectious diseases and the development of individual-based models to create realistic representations of human contact patterns. Dr. Chinazzi is one of the lead developers of the Global Epidemic and Mobility model, and the coordinator of the COVID-19 Mobility project at the Network Science Institute. He is also a member of the council of the Complex Systems Society (CSS), and he is one of the co-founders of the association of Young Researchers of the Complex Systems (yrCSS, former YRNCS).

  

Industry Collaborators

Mark Birkhead

Managing Director and Head of Decision Sciences, JPMorgan Chase

Mark BirkheadMark Birkhead is a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase and the Head of Decision Sciences for Consumer Banking and Wealth Management. In this capacity, Mark is responsible for utilizing analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to grow our businesses, enhance sales, marketing and distribution, and to improve the customer experience across the Consumer Bank, US Wealth Management, US Private Bank and International Private Bank. Mark brings a strong record of building and transforming analytic organizations both in the US and globally. Most recently, Mark was the Chief Analytic Officer at Santander US, responsible building the data and analytics organizations across five businesses, including the Retail Bank. Mark also spent 10 years at Citigroup in the Global Consumer Bank and Retail Services, most recently as the Global Head of Analytics & Insights for nine countries across Latin America and Mexico. Prior to Citi, Mark worked at GE Capital and Wells Fargo & Company.

Ricardo Martin Manjón

Global Head of Data, BBVA

Mark BirkheadIn April 2019, Ricardo Martin Manjón was appointed Global Head of Data at BBVA. Ricardo is responsible of leading the transformation of the Group towards a data-driven company. Previously, Ricardo was Head of Data Strategy & Data Science Innovation, spearheading the most advanced applications of data and artificial intelligence to the business at BBVA. Prior to that, Ricardo has been Head of Digital Banking at Nordea, the leading bank in the Nordics. In this position, he was responsible for defining and executing the overall digital strategy for the Retail and Corporate segments globally. Before that, Ricardo has been Head of Digital Transformation at BBVA Spain for almost a decade. This role included the overall digital and physical distribution strategy and has been key in the evolution of the bank to become a leader in the digital space. Additionally, Ricardo has also been Head of Marketing for BBVA Spain for two years. Before joining BBVA in 2003, Ricardo had a fintech startup company that was acquired by BBVA. He has a PhD in Quantitative Economics from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and an Executive MBA from Columbia University and London Business School.

Toby Scammell

Founder & CEO, Womply

Toby ScammellToby Scammell founded Womply in 2011 after seeing first-hand how underserved America’s small businesses were by technology. Today, he leads the strategic vision for Womply’s products and works closely with members of Womply’s executive team, with a particular focus on the intersection of product development and go-to-market activities. Under Toby’s leadership, Womply has acquired more than 450,000 small business customers, become the leading software partner to America’s credit card processing industry, raised $50 million in growth funding, and expanded to hundreds of employees across offices in San Francisco and Lehi, Utah. Toby is a serial entrepreneur with a strong business background. Prior to founding Womply, he co-founded Feastery, where he spent over a year solving customer acquisition and loyalty problems for restaurants in San Francisco. Before that, he was an associate consultant at Bain & Company, one of the world’s top management consulting firms.

Derek J. White

Chief Digital Officer, U.S. Bancorp

Derek WhiteDerek White is chief digital officer of U.S. Bancorp, a financial services holding company with businesses across the United States, Canada and Europe. U.S. Bancorp is headquartered in Minneapolis and is the parent company of U.S. Bank, which is the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States. U.S. Bancorp is also the parent company of Elavon, a leader in the payment processing industry. White has served in this position since joining U.S. Bancorp in June 2019. Prior to U.S. Bancorp, White was global head of client solutions with BBVA in Spain. In that role, he led a team of nearly 10,000 people focused on concepting, designing, creating and launching digital and innovation work – from products and services to data science units and venture creation. Prior to BBVA, White spent 12 years with Barclays in several leadership roles including chief design & digital officer. White earned his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School and a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University.

Colleen Berube

Chief Information Officer, Zendesk

Derek WhiteAs Zendesk’s chief information officer, Colleen is reshaping Zendesk's benchmark for modern IT at scale and a customer-centric workforce. She is passionate about the role of both customer and employee experience in the digital age. With more than 20 years of experience across multiple industries and an ever-changing technology landscape, Colleen is a digital- and business-model transformation leader. Her innovative strategies help companies put their customers at the center and create work environments focused on collaboration and open communication. Previously, she was an executive in residence with PwC where she worked on a range of commercial and internal initiatives. Prior to this, Colleen was vice president of IT for Adobe Systems, and also held executive-level IT roles at Cisco Systems, Palm, and SAP. In her spare time, Colleen is an avid rower. She takes what she learns about discipline and teamwork on the water to the business world. She holds a bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Potsdam and an MBA from the University of North Florida.

Dennis Crowley

Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Foursquare

Dennis CrowleyDennis Crowley is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Foursquare, the technology platform that powers location experiences for more than 1 billion people around the world. Previously, he founded Dodgeball, one of the first location-based mobile social services (acquired by Google in 2005) and help to build early location-based games PacManhattan (2004) and ConQwest (2004). Dennis is also the founder and Chairman of the Kingston Stockade Football Club, a semi-professional soccer team out of Hudson Valley, NY that competes in the 4th division of the US Soccer Pyramid. He has been named one of Fortune's "40 Under 40" (2010, 2011), a member of Vanity Fair's "New Establishment" (2011, 2012) and has won the "Fast Money" bonus round on the TV game show Family Feud (2009). He is currently an Adjunct Professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). Dennis holds a Master's degree from New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program and a Bachelor's degree from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He splits his time between New York City and the Hudson Valley with his wife Chelsa and their two children, Via and Mars.

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