Does the internet help governments contain the COVID-19 pandemic? Multi-country evidence from online human behaviour

Qi Zhang, Chee Wei Phang, Cheng Zhang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The effectiveness of social distancing and other public health interventions for containing the COVID-19 pandemic has been demonstrated. However, whether and how Internet use behaviours can lead to enhanced self-protection and reduced transmission when considered in conjunction with behavioural interventions remains unclear. This study investigated the strength of effective Internet behaviours and its interaction with global public health interventions for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted an econometric analysis of multisource infection and policy information, Internet behaviour, and meteorological information from worldwide in a 3-month period. People's Internet behaviours may contribute crucially to pandemic containment. Furthermore, they may help enhance the effects of public health interventions, particularly behavioural interventions. We discussed plausible mechanisms through which Internet behaviours reduce epidemic spread independently or in tandem with behavioural interventions. Further investigation into the heterogeneity of the interventions demonstrates Internet behaviour's significance in heightening the effects of difficult-to-implement, primitive crisis orientation, and specific objectives of interventions. Governments should recognise the importance of the Internet and leverage it in managing social crises. Our findings serve as a reference for the formulation of global public health policy. Specifically, the insights provided herein can facilitate the implementation of strategies for containing ongoing secondary outbreaks of COVID-19 or outbreaks of other emergent infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101749
JournalGovernment Information Quarterly
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Internet behaviour
  • Intervention heterogeneity
  • Public intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Law

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