How the Covid Crisis Underscores the Importance of Statistics and Data Modelling
How the Covid Crisis Has Made the World Hungry for Numbers and Data
While the Covid Crisis has made us aware of the importance of many hitherto neglected aspects of our business, politics, and healthcare systems, one aspect that has been brought to the fore is to do with how we need reliable data and near accurate modelling as well as a robust system of collecting and reporting statistics.
Indeed, these days everyone wants to know when the Covid crisis would end and the world would return to normal as well as prognoses on the future directions that it would take in addition to estimating and forecasting its impact on economic growth.
Read any news item about the Coronavirus and chances are that it would have data that reports the cases as well as the guesstimates on how it would impact all of us.
Therefore, when the whole world is hungry for numbers and data on the Covid crisis, it underscores how important statistics and associated methods of data collection have become important.
Apart from this, we can also see how governments worldwide are being pilloried for not having accurate data about everything ranging from mortalities to the positivity rates worldwide.
While We are Drowning in Data, There are No Lifeguards for Reliable Statistics
Take for instance the daily reporting of cases. Each day, we turn to the news to read about how many new cases have been reported, how many have recovered, and for some it is important to know how many have died.
In the absence of reliable data, it becomes that much more difficult for all stakeholders to monitor and plan accordingly.
Moreover, we also want to know how many jobs have been lost and how much the GDP or the Gross Domestic Product, which is a measure of economic growth, has declined on account of the Covid crisis.
Indeed, one can say without hyperbole that we are drowning in data regarding various aspects to do with the Covid crisis and hence, the most important aspect is how reliable the data is and how accurate the modelling of future trajectories is.
In addition, it is also clear that in the absence of accurate and reliable data, we are shooting in the dark and are like the tale of the Blind Men and the Elephant where each persons guess is as good as the others and where none gets it right.
So, if there is anything, it is the importance of statistics.
Why Governments Worldwide are Struggling with Data Collection and Modelling
However, despite such need for accurate and reliable data, it is sad to note that many governments worldwide including the United States, the United Kingdom and for that matter, even India, have not fully installed a system of robust data collection, rigorous analysis, and reliable modelling.
See for instance how the Indian government routinely claims that it has no data on everything from the deaths of migrant workers to the number of jobs lost to the overall fatalities.
What is galling is that we are dealing with an unprecedented humanitarian and healthcare crisis and yet, we do not seem to have a grip on what and how we count.
It is also remarkable that we have not learnt the lessons from the Great Recession of 2008 where such lack of forecasting methods got us into the mess in the first place.
As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it and hence, one cannot overstate the importance of accurate data and reliable statistics.
As mentioned earlier, even the advanced West seems clueless at times with all the sophisticated tools at their disposal and it is even more tragic that preventable deaths are happening.
The Need for Quality Statistics and Number Crunching Courses in Higher Education
So, what does this mean for future managers and professionals? For one, if you are aspiring for a managerial career, please take statistics courses seriously and if possible, take electives in this subject as well. In addition, master the techniques of using Microsoft Excel and other tools so that you have a good base to start with when you graduate to advanced tools.
Apart from that, learn to develop a gut feel and an intuitive understanding of statistics and an eye for numbers that would allow you to make predictions based on the given data.
More often than not, the best statisticians are those who have an uncanny feel for numbers and even if the Covid crisis passes, which it would eventually, these skills would help you in your career.
Especially for those planning to join Investment Banks or consultancies, it is more than important to have a nose for numbers.
There is also an added responsibility on our Business and Engineering schools to emphasize the importance of statistics and this is where visionary educationalists can play a role in making statistics pedagogies important in institutes around the world. Indeed, the Covid crisis should be seen as a wakeup call.
The Key Triumvirate of Statistics, Technology, and People Skills
Last, the inevitable aspect of political interference in data collection and reporting means that we also have to insulate ourselves from such aspects and this is where astute professionals can matter as their persuasion skills would let them handle biases and human interference. Indeed, experienced administrators can walk the tightrope that is needed in the bureaucracy and hence, you can develop people skills as well. Therefore, technology, statistics, and human resource skills can be developed as the Triumvirate for future managers. To conclude, the key take away from the Covid crisis is undoubtedly the importance of statistics and reliable data modelling.
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