Climate Change, Brain Drain, and Digital Government
Last week, I went to an eye-opening event at Bloomberg Government. The topic of discussion was the impact of climate change on Latino communities in America, which at first glance seemed like an oddly specific combination of topics. As the conversation went on, the need for the conversation, as well as the implications for the impact of a true digital government would have on these communities started to really hit me.
Latino communities suffer from the highest rate of asthma among any group in the US. This is largely in part due to the high number of latino communities that border refineries, factories, and other facilities that produce particulate emissions.
In latino communities, children miss over 112,000 days of school each year due to Asthma attacks. The “brain-drain” there is incalculable, exacerbating an already pronounced “brian-drain” effect observed in low-income communities during the summer months when school is not in session. As the climate changes, and more pollutants and particulate matter is put into our environment, this issue will only be magnified as health outcomes are worsened.
There is huge potential for a digital government to mitigate these issues. So much so, that it has taken me a full week of back and forth trying to figure out how to explain all the possibilities in a short blog post…which is obviously impossible. Here’s what I can get out in a condensed form… I imagine citizen-centered government connected from the local to the federal level, that could share data automatically and seamlessly to alert, educate, and do health follow-ups with citizens via their mobile devices.
Continuous air quality monitoring in these areas with automated warnings and updates targeted to the people that need it most could keep children affected indoors on the worst days or remind kids and parents of inhaler use while educating families where to find health specialists in pediatric asthma. Reporting directly from the citizens to the local and state governments would provide rich data on when and where students miss school days due to asthma and target programs and policy to meet these communities needs in an effective way while minimizing cost.
Take this a step further and imagine if schools could predict absence days for students, preload lessons, and automatically send the materials to a student at home in multiple digital formats that would minimize the impact on a student’s progress due to not being in the classroom.
This is a natural extension of smart city and data driven policy initiatives that are having measurable positive impacts on citizens around the world. After flooding killed over 100 people, Buenos Aires started using real-time sensor data to monitor rain water and drain and sewer condition to prevent flooding, a problem that is increasing with as the global climate changes. The State of Indiana uses data to monitor opioid use, overdoses, and pharmacy break-ins to target resources and policies directly where most effective to help communities combat the problem. I believe that climate change will lead to farming and agriculture job loss due to droughts, flooding, or declining bee populations, adding to problems for society like addiction.
In the near future, we will no longer have the free resources to tackle these problems – we will need end-to-end digital governments that can aggressively evaluate and intemperate data to find the intersections of seemingly separate issues and develop prescriptive, evidence based responses.