Geek looking at data

Public Health, Government and Retail Sectors Need Data-Driven Strategies to Keep Up with the Times

Published Jan 11, 2021, 02:06 PM by Environics Analytics
Learn how industry experts are using data-driven strategies to navigate the pandemic


A survey conducted by the management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company found that 92% of global business leaders stated that their business model would not remain viable at the rates of digitization – and that was before COVID-19. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change and exposed critical gaps in organizational approaches. 

Governmenthealth and retail sectors, in particular, have had to quickly evaluate the challenges of this new reality. Even the data and analytics sector – one that may not immediately come to mind as being affected by the pandemic – has experienced an accelerated rate of innovation in pursuit of finding and modelling the data needed to support response and recovery.


Watch the panel presentation  "How Data-Driven Strategies Keep Up With the Times" 


We participated in a panel discussion alongside experts from the Niagara Region Public Health, City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the Canadian Urban Institute to explore how data and analytics tools can help organizations most affected by the pandemic.  

Public health, government and retail panellists shared how they adapted their data and analytics strategies to provide timely and vital information to their organizations and accomplish their objectives. 

Public Health 

For public health organizations tasked with tracking COVID-19 cases and disseminating best practices to combat further spread, this crisis has highlighted gaps in the speed of available data and the specific characteristics of populations.  Having a timely understanding of shifting behaviours and attitudes of specific populations and where outbreaks are occurring is essential in pinpointing whose work, lifestyles and movements indicate a higher risk of new infections. 


Government & Public Sector

Organizations in the public sector face the delicate task of supporting their communities by adapting rules and regulations around safe spaces for congregation and recreation while balancing support for local businesses and their citizens' daily needs to deter the further spread of COVID-19. While the applications for governments overall are broader than public health, the data limitations are often similar. Available data do not keep pace with the pandemic and are usually not specific enough to support localized or population-specific solutions to improve effectiveness.

Even beyond the pandemic, public services still have to continue, including planning for infrastructure projects and services. Much of this work requires public consultation, which to a certain extent can be done online. Still, it warrants further investigation as to what other approaches may be practical in aiding future decision-making.



One of the most visibly impacted sectors, retail, rapidly adapted business models to account for new regulations on in-store shopping, a large-scale shift to e-commerce platforms and changes in consumer spending and visitation patterns. Agility has been the recipe for surviving the pandemic. Still, the data for this sector are spotty. While some surveys have been conducted and have identified high-level changes, once again, more locally specific, rapid measures would help local businesses respond more effectively.


Data & Analytics Providers

For experts in this field, surveys have proven to be an important tool in measuring changing attitudes and behaviours. They can be deployed relatively quickly, which is useful in understanding how the public is responding, but they are limited by the capability to adapt findings to locally specific populations.


Take a closer look at how the COVID-19 crisis impacts the Canadian population financially and socially:

COVID-19: A Neighbourhood View for the City of Toronto

The Many Faces of Vulnerability in the Time of COVID-19 [Study]

What cellphone mobility data can teach us about why the lockdown might not be working

‘Critical’ data gaps have greatly hampered Canadian governments’ ability to face COVID-19 pandemic


Back to top