Let me share with you the story behind the creation of Pandem-ic, a a data analytics platform born out of a deep concern for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the developing world.
Early on, there were claims that developing countries would be left “unscathed” by the pandemic, but it quickly became clear that this was far from the truth. Yet, misinformation and disinformation, combined with a lack of reliable data, made it difficult to grasp the true impact of the pandemic, especially in the developing world.
That’s where Pandem-ic comes in. I created this resource as a way to use data-driven visuals and analysis to promote understanding of the unequal impact of the pandemic. The goal is to find a globally inclusive solution and create a better world for all.
As someone who previously managed Global Modeling & Analytics at the World Bank – a strategic foresight unit in the research department – I drew on my experience of leading the IMF/World Bank Global Monitoring Report on demography and development as inspiration for creating pandem-ic. Little did I know that this work would prove to be so useful in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has a unique age-discriminating characteristic.
The project took shape after co-authoring a working paper with Diego Sourrouille of the World Bank on COVID-19 mortality in rich and poor countries. This paper predicted a massive shift in global mortality distribution to the developing world, based on demographic patterns alone (population size and age structure). At the time, developing countries accounted for only 15% of COVID-19 mortality globally, but we predicted that it would rise to over 70%. Sadly, this prediction fully materialized, as highlighted by Laura Spinney’s article in The Guardian.
This project would not have been possible without the generous support of so many individuals and organizations. To all of the data wizards at Johns Hopkins University, Our World in Data, and The Economist, thank you for your tireless work in tracking and analyzing the pandemic’s impact across the globe. And a special shoutout to Edouard Mathieu and Sondre Solstad, whose regular feedback has been invaluable.
It’s been gratifying to see the project gain traction, even as a side effort. It ended up being widely used within the World Bank, and it formed the basis of several pieces of work, including with Indermit Gill, now Chief Economist of the World Bank Group, in the form of a piece at Brookings demonstrating that “COVID-19 is a developing country pandemic” – a conclusion that remains as relevant as ever.
The World Health Organization has been a source of encouragement and inspiration for me. Gabby Stern, Director of Communications, was among the very first to spot the “vaccine equity tracker” in the form of a table shared on Twitter on vaccine distribution across income groups. Since then, WHO colleagues, including Samira Asma, Peter Singer, and Soumya Swaminathan, have been very supportive, providing valuable feedback and suggestions.
I am also grateful for the feedback and inspiration I have received from various practitioners, academics, and colleagues, including Jorge Araujo, Luis Benveniste, Gabriel Demombynes, Tom Frieden, Amanda Glassman, Gregg Gonsalves, Michele Gragnolati, Huade Huo, Matthew Kavanagh, Xander Koolman, Anthony Leonardi, Mamta Murthi, Madhu Pai, Bart Pauwels, Bryce Quillin, Alasdair Rae, Gavin Yamey, and Shahid Yusuf. Your inputs have helped to shape and refine this project, and I thank you for your support.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to the many visitors who have explored this site. Your comments, suggestions, and contributions have been instrumental in shaping and enhancing this platform, enabling us to raise awareness about the unequal impact of this pandemic. I am grateful for your engagement and for joining me on this mission to find a globally inclusive solution.