If you want to model how infectious diseases spread, you need a decent simulator to see how the various coping strategies pan out. Your simulation needs to take into account the population, its age and gender distribution, where people live and how far they travel from home to work and which people share homes.
But making this data realistic would be hard. After all, would anybody willingly agree to have their real data entered into such a simulation?
Actually yes. Swedes. All nine million of them.
Yep, the personal details of the entire Swedish population have been used to create what must be the world’s largest and most realistic computer simulation of the way infectious diseases spread.
Lisa Brouwers at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and buddies have built a simulation called Microsim in which every member of the Swedish population is represented with details including their sex, age, family status, school, workplace and their geographic location at these places to within 100 metres.
That makes for potentially fantastic simulations but it also raises extraordinary questions over privacy. The data is only minimally anonymized: each individual is given a random identifier but otherwise their personal data is intact.
Given that the team is combining data from three different sources, this doesn’t sound like nearly enough protection.
But Brouwers must know what she’s doing. Or at least be praying that the rest of Sweden doesn’t find out what she’s done.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0902.0901: MicroSim: Modeling the Swedish Population