The Rise of the Data Poor: The COVID-19 Pandemic Seen From the Margins

Essay by Stefania Milan and Emiliano Treré: “Quantification is central to the narration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Numbers determine the existence of the problem and affect our ability to care and contribute to relief efforts. Yet many communities at the margins, including many areas of the Global South, are virtually absent from this number-based narration of the pandemic. This essay builds on critical data studies to warn against the universalization of problems, narratives, and responses to the virus. To this end, it explores two types of data gaps and the corresponding “data poor.” The first gap concerns the data poverty perduring in low-income countries and jeopardizing their ability to adequately respond to the pandemic. The second affects vulnerable populations within a variety of geopolitical and socio-political contexts, whereby data poverty constitutes a dangerous form of invisibility which perpetuates various forms of inequality. But, even during the pandemic, the disempowered manage to create innovative forms of solidarity from below that partially mitigate the negative effects of their invisibility….(More)”.