Taiwan’s tech-savvy citizens helped flatten its COVID-19 curve

Taiwan’s government cannot take sole credit for flattening that country’s curve during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The work was supported by an extraordinary collaboration of tech-savvy citizens who used their expertise to help spread valuable information to the public, according to a case study by Steven O. Kimbrough, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, and Christine Chou, business professor at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan.

Pedestrians and bicyclists at a crosswalk wearing face coverings in a Taiwanese city.

“The purpose of our case study is to describe the work by a special group of people to assist in the pandemic response in Taiwan,” the researchers explain. “Rationing of face masks began in Taiwan on January 28, shortly after the coronavirus appeared. This was partly in response to panic buying, but problems persisted, with long lines at all convenience stores that were originally designated to sell masks. 

“There was also much agitation and anxiety among the public. At this point the idea of a name-based rationing system—tied to the national health system records—for buying face masks in the pharmacies was proposed. Once news of the forthcoming arrangement was released on February 4, a novel collaboration among the public, private, and civic sectors began to emerge spontaneously. 

The result, the authors say, was that the “rationing system and the searching tools fully met their expectations until late April when the government was able to produce ample numbers of masks domestically.” The takeaways the authors highlight are that there was an existing platform in place from the onset of the pandemic, along with an openness of government data. The government also shared in the emotions and concerns of the general public. “Emotion sharing was a key element in binding the community together and serving its higher purposes.”

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.