Could you save lives from Covid if you knew what movies people watch around the country? Yes, if it’s done by Yandex, Russia’s largest creator of numerous apps and services. We analysed big data received from these services and found unexpected connections. It appeared that we can measure the city activity level by knowing what services are used more often than the others. This discovery enabled creation of a tool that helped Russia save lots of lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When Covid-19 came to Russia the life in the cities changed. International experience showed that to slow down the spread of the virus and thus save lives people should stay home. The president announced weeks off work to ensure safety and to decrease the number of social contacts. But people perceived this as vacation and went out for walks, BBQs and other free-time activities. Somebody had to do something, otherwise this behavior could cause an increase in new coronavirus cases. This is when Yandex, Russia’s largest creator of various apps and services for a more comfortable life used daily by over a half of the country’s population, decided to step in and use its resources to save people.
Describe the Creative idea / data solution (20% of vote)
We came up with a simple idea: just as you can’t bring the temperature down if you don’t measure it, you can’t decrease the number of people on the streets if you don’t know how many are there. That is how the Self-Isolation Index was developed. This is an anonymous data-based tool that shows how well people are self-isolating in different cities. It is based on the anonymous data from over 20 Yandex services that are used daily by over a half of the population. We had to make this tool clear for everyone, even children, that is why we made it in a form of a simple 5-grade scale. To make the resultant number more emotional we chose to color it: the red color meant the citizens were on the streets and in danger, green color meant they were at home and safe.
Describe the data driven strategy (30% of vote)
Yandex’s ecosystem includes dozens of services for a comfortable city living: maps, taxi, movie/music streaming, food delivery, etc. These services are used by over 60% of Russian population. Our homepage yandex.ru is the most visited page in the Russian web segment with over 70 mln daily views. After Covid came and the national self-isolation regime was announced, we started to notice that people switched from one app to another. We decided to use anonymous trends from our services to create an aggregate Self-Isolation Index. We replaced the indicator of city traffic in our map-based apps, which people check at least 2 times a day, with our Index. We also placed it on yandex.ru, so that it would be impossible to ignore it: the officials, bloggers, media and even regular users had to react by drawing attention to the importance of staying home or even introducing new safety measures.
Describe the creative use of data, or how the data enhanced the creative output (30% of vote)
It’s impossible to notice when one person changes his/her behavior but when many of them do, it becomes a trend. And this is what happened. Staying self-isolated, people didn't plan routes, use metro map or order taxi. At the same time they ordered more deliveries, read more content and newsfeeds, watched more movies. We compared these anonymous trends from over 85mln users of 24 our main services with the same data from before the pandemic. After all the calculations we aggregated the result into a simple 0 to 5 grade scale where 0 was equal to the regular activity day before the pandemic, and 5 meant most people were at home. The Index was measured in real life for 173 cities with over 100k population. We sent push notifications daily and also when the Index changed by 0,3+ points in the region, so people were kept posted.
List the data driven results (20% of vote)
~8 billion total impressions, including worldwide coverage in news, media and social platforms.
+20 mln search queries daily – Yandex became the most noticeable company in Russia during the pandemic and increased the number of users from 57 to 60% of Russian internet users.
The Index became an official metric of self-isolation across Russia, as the government noticed it and started to refer to it in the meetings.
According to a research made by Higher School of Economic National Research University, the joint efforts of people and government during the self-isolation helped prevent 80 000 deaths from Covid during the first two months of the pandemic.