Can Social Media Help Predict The economic Impact of Covid19? How would we measure it?
Well, new research might have the answer. University of Bristol scientists have discovered a ‘real time’ method that has already been accurately trialed across three global natural disasters which could be used to reliably forecast the financial impact of the current global health crisis.
The method relies on the assumption that businesses tend to publish more social media posts when they are open and fewer when they are closed, and by analyzing the aggregated posting activity of a group of businesses over time it is possible to determine when they are open or closed.
To develop this method, the researchers used data from the public Facebook posts of local businesses collected before, during and after three natural disasters: the 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal, the 2017 Chiapas earthquake in Mexico, and the 2017 hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Next, the team charted the number of smaller urban businesses who were closed, measured their recovery post-event, then compared this to Facebook surveys, Facebook posts text analysis. This sort of real time measurement is what is called “nowcasting”.
Dr. Simini, Senior Lecturer and the study’s lead author explains, “The challenge of nowcasting the effect of natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and pandemics on assets, people and society has never been more timely than ever for assessing the ability of countries to recover from extreme events.Often, small to medium-sized businesses slip through the net of traditional monitoring process of recovery. We noticed in areas struck by natural hazard events that not all areas and populations react in the same way.”
Dr Flavia De Luca, lead author and Senior Lecturer in Bristol’s Department of Civil Engineering, added, “It was amazing to find out that the approach was providing information on the recovery in ‘real time’.”
So, what is the team’s next aim? They would like to test the method where social media help predict the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to think of a more timely discovery.
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