The Value of Big Data in a Pandemic

58 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2020 Last revised: 14 Nov 2020

See all articles by Kairong Xiao

Kairong Xiao

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Date Written: May 13, 2020


This paper studies the value of big data in a pandemic by exploiting the staggered implementation of the "Health Code" app in 322 Chinese cities during the COVID-19 outbreak. This app uses mobile location data to generate a real-time health certificate for the holder. Using high-frequency economic indicators and COVID-19 cases, I find that this big data technology helps control the pandemic and facilitates economic recovery. An SIR model calibrated to the micro-level estimates shows that this app reduced the economic loss by 2% of GDP and saved 190,000 lives during the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

Keywords: Big data, informational friction, COVID-19, lockdown

JEL Classification: E32, D80, I10

Suggested Citation

Xiao, Kairong, The Value of Big Data in a Pandemic (May 13, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Kairong Xiao (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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