Does Our Country Value Data?

A question that I ask myself watching the COVID-19 era unfold

Tommy Chan
4 min readMay 9, 2020


Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

This has been a question that has been on my mind for years now. Data is a subject that’s been trending for a while.

Words like ‘data’, ‘estimates’, and ‘models’ have been getting thrown around a lot nowadays. Especially during this pandemic, because we’re all eager to know what our future may or may not be like.

What’s been concerning to me is that a lot of people don’t seem to understand all the intricacies around data or models.

Let me explain.

Data is not just data

You see, data is not just data. Data is information that can easily lie to you, if you don’t know what’s behind it.

Data is a reflection of multiple operations that were combined to create a summary. Good data is reliant on each operation doing their part to not let any leaks get through the cracks. If there are any issues with the process in between, you’re going to have bad data.

If you have bad data, you’re going to risk making the wrong decisions.

To fit our current narrative, we’ll look at what went on with the novel Coronavirus.

A quick overview of our data operations

Collection → Processing → Analysis → Presentation

We’ll start off with the trigger. One day everyone woke up to news that Wuhan, a city of 11 million was shut down and quarantined. A new virus has broken out. We don’t know much about it except it’s causing pneumonia and death in some cases. Some neighboring countries have also seen some cases. It’s January 23rd.

Data Collection

A few days after Wuhan announces its big shutdown, the virus is found circling around the United States. This is when data collection starts. Or at least this is when data collection should start.

In an ideal world, we would try to collect as much data as possible. Anyone who shows symptoms of a mild cold or flu should have had the option to have been also tested for COVID-19. We didn’t do this due to not having enough tests available early on.



Tommy Chan

Writing about technology, business, and work culture. Subscribe to my Web3 newsletter at