Google Data Reveals How India Moves during COVID-19 Times

New Delhi: There was 77 percent decrease in people’s movement at retail and recreational places in India at the end of March, along with 65 per cent drop at grocery and pharmacy locations, according to Google’s first ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Report.

Google is now offering user location data to help public health officials spot increase or decrease of movement across high-level categories of places, to help them flatten the curve of coronavirus pandemic.

While there were 57 percent decrease in people’s movement at parks, India saw 71 per cent drop in mobility at places like public transport hubs such as subway, bus, and train stations.

The decrease at workplaces was noticed at 47 per cent while there was 22 percent increase in residential areas, as people stayed home.

The Google baseline is the median value, for the corresponding day of the week, during the 5-week period (like Jan 3–Feb 6, 2020).

The community mobility reports are now available for 131 countries, including India.

“The reports show trends over several weeks with the most recent data representing approximately 2-3 days ago—this is how long it takes to produce the reports,” said Google.

Google said it calculated these insights based on data from users who have opted-in to Location History for their Google Account, so the data represents a sample of our users.

“As with all samples, this may or may not represent the exact behaviour of a wider population,” said the company.

The reports use aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.

“We’ll show trends over several weeks, with the most recent information representing 48 to 72 hours prior. While we display a percentage point increase or decrease in visits, we do not share the absolute number of visits,” according to Google.

To protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point, said the tech company.

This information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings.

Similarly, persistent visits to transportation hubs might indicate the need to add additional buses or trains in order to allow people who need to travel room to spread out for social distancing.

“Ultimately, understanding not only whether people are traveling, but also trends in destinations, can help officials design guidance to protect public health and essential needs of communities,” said Google.

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