Creator of Bayes Impact, Paul Duan is one of the pioneers of the use of the algorithms at the service of social impact. His NGO has worked on issues such as the collection of data of police violence in California, the improvement of the system of Medicare health insurance in the United States, or even the accompaniment of job-seekers in France with Bob Employment.
Trained in mathematics, economics and political science at Berkeley, the Sorbonne, and Sciences Po, the native Trap-doors, 27-year-old has been the first data scientist at Eventbrite, in the Silicon Valley. Today, Bayes Impact launches to Break the chain, an initiative to break the chains of contamination, and which it hoped it could be one of the tools of a déconfinement managed in France and elsewhere. To be effective enough ? Explanations.
The Point : Can you explain to us the operation to Break the chain ?
Paul Duan : It is a website that allows people who have symptoms of the Covid-19 to easily prevent the people they have been able to contaminate it. Without any tracking of its movements or of its contacts, that is to say, without gps, without Bluetooth, without storage of personal information. It is also free and open source.
The idea is simply to guide the user in an educational manner to help identify its infectious period, to remember the people who crossed during this period (via a checklist), and then allow it to send a message pre-written in one click. They can therefore send messages to their contact via a SMS, an email or a WhatsApp from them, directly from their own device, without it being traced to anyone. If they do not wish to do so directly, they can also ask us to do it for them, anonymously or their part. Behind, the person so notified has access to a course of follow-up of his symptoms, instructions following official recommendations (such as screening) and, if applicable, may be required to notify their contacts in turn.
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How did you get the idea ?
It was created to Break the chain in the framework of our NGO, Bayes Impact, whose mission is to put technology at the service of the general interest. In this context, we wondered how we could be helpful in this crisis. However, one thing we had noticed prior to the containment, it is that it was several to know in our entourage of people who have had the Covid-19, but have not notified their contacts, thus creating chains of contamination. For example, persons who, without having been notified, went to door-to-door during the campaign for municipal elections. What we have observed in our research is that many people did not know they could be infectious before the onset of their symptoms ; others still had trouble remembering spontaneously of the people they had encountered ; and finally, some people knew who to contact, but were willing to give up or procrastinaient face the embarrassment of writing the message. Thus, it was said that there was already a lot of friction that could relieve with a simple tool and educational, without even needing to touch the privacy of the user. It was therefore decided to devote the resources of Bayes Impact to create Breaking the chain.
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But what about the people that we do not know ?
Our system does not pretend of course not be perfect. It is based on the memory of people, which is also the operation of traditional surveys made by the brigades health. Therefore, there may be omissions. This is what they are trying to solve via the interface which incorporates a system of memory aids, such as links to its calendar. The other limit is that to Break the chain does not contact the unknown to the crusaders, for example in transport. This is particularly what try to solve the systems of contact tracing automated, such as StopCovid. But studies show that secondary infections occur overwhelmingly between people who know each other (family, relatives, co-workers), so we chose to focus on those. Every chain of transmission broken is already a progress !
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A system declarative like ours also has advantages, in addition to the aspect of privacy. On the one hand, it does not require mass adoption and proactive of the general population, because it requires only that those who have the symptoms are used, and this can be done a posteriori.
This will only be available in France ?
We would first like to work on our complementarity with the institutional arrangements for follow-up of case contacts and see how to Break the string could relieve the work of general practitioners and medical brigades health in the first line.
We will also start to Break the chain in other countries, particularly those emerging as the France of a period of confinement. The site will soon be available in English (under the name of Conotify.org) and we investigate the possibility of the launch of the current platform in French-speaking countries.
how does the participation of citizens can bring about real change ?
as a citizen, we are not condemned to be that consumers (or reviews) of services provided by the State, but we can also build the public service that we want to see exist, without the need to go through a process market. This is what we call the " public service of the citizen ".
We have seen the contribution of the civil society in this crisis, with the many initiatives of manufacturing masks, face shields or respirators, in particular by the community of makers. Or even with the thousands of volunteers who have volunteered, on platforms such as Reinforcements-Covid or the reserve health. One can also cite the example of MaladieCoronavirus.fr, which, with its millions of consultations, played an important role in helping the public to analyze the symptoms. This last is led by a physician, and is based on an algorithm developed by the Pasteur Institute and the AP-HP, which is a good example of collaboration between civil society and the public.
What should be the role of the State in the crisis we are experiencing ?
In this vision where the State collaborates with the civil society, the State has a role of a strategist, which is fundamental. Without this, the risk is to lead to a stacking of devices, and initiatives are poorly coordinated. This role of the strategist is also what enables the State to identify promising initiatives, and to help them to take their impact to scale. The seo by the ministry of Health of Disease Coronavirus is a good example of the massive use of this site, has helped to relieve the 15.
The success of Covidom, conducted by the AP-HP, also shows that the public has a great potential for innovation, notably at local level, as soon as it comes out of the vertical. To be agile, the State must, therefore, define a framework of collaboration with citizens, while ensuring the respect of the principles of public service. A resilient society is a society that knows how to rely on civil society to be reactive in times of crisis.
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The State should encourage the download of the application StopCovid ?
In regards StopCovid, I don't think the government should make a mandatory download, and this fortunately is not the track that he seems to choose. On the one hand, this would not be possible in practice, given that everyone does not have a smartphone. On the other hand, it would have too many consequences in terms of individual freedoms.
It must not be forgotten that the devices of contact tracing are only a small part of an overall strategy more comprehensive, which includes also the screening, the masks... The role of the State is to put it all into music. Because there is unfortunately no magic wand against the Covid-19. The best we can do is to propose an assembly of intelligent solutions that, together, drop their famous reproductive rate of the virus below 1.