Digitalisation gap for effective indoor air quality risk management decision making

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, July 2020, Volume 3, #108

The premise of indoor air pollutants’ exposure reduction or avoidance lies in human feeling motivated to reduce or avoid exposure. What would make human to feel motivated to do something? Is it information or knowledge of potential risks associated with not taking action?

An appreciation of the difference between information and knowledge will aid in answering the question. Information is formed when collected, or generated data are put together in a meaningful way for the person receiving it.

Knowledge is formed when individual information is connected and contextualised to an application and the associated application assumptions, fundamental principles, and implications. Thus, the level of knowledge generated from information depends on the receiving person’s ability to connect the received information to assumption, the fundamental principle guiding the collected information, and possible implications.

Some level of expertise or experience on the subject matter will be needed to transform the received information into knowledge effectively. It is important to note that inaccurate and inappropriate information generated will compromise the nature and quality of knowledge generated. Another point is if there is no information generated, there will not be any knowledge generated. Knowledge depends on information availability.

If the accurate and appropriate information is available on time, an inadequate assumption, fundamental principle, and believed implications used to process the information would compromise the nature and quality of generated knowledge.

The nature and quality of knowledge generated will determine the level of quality of developed motivation by the person receiving the knowledge to make informed decisions needed for appropriate intervention. Thus, any inadequacy in the process of information generation to the development of motivation required for intervention may have great consequences depending on the nature of the hazard and vulnerability at hand.

The time taken to generate and convert information to knowledge can also influence the time taken to develop the required motivation needed for intervening. Delayed motivation will delay decision making. Digitalisation may help bridge the gap that exists in the process of information generation to knowledge, and the development of motivation required for intervention. However, there is a significant digitalisation gap in providing on-time, accurate, and appropriate information, especially in the context of air pollution exposure at an individual level.

Furthermore, many people lack the required expertise and experience to convert generated information to the knowledge needed for the development of motivation to make the right and on-time decision on the intervention needed to reduce air pollution exposure, especially in indoor environments. Individual human psychology needs to be taken into consideration to make people develop the right motivation.

The highlighted flaw associated with many people in converting received information to knowledge will not be a concern of significant importance if exposure to indoor air pollution does not have death, adverse human health, comfort, and performance and productivity implications. Unfortunately, the implications are a reality.

In the form of COVID 19, a life-changing event has catapulted humanity into a new world, or a new way of thinking that necessitates the need for humans to make on-time, accurate, and appropriate interventions to reduce or prevent exposure to coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID 19, or any air pollutants. Efforts are being made to reduce exposure to coronavirus and its impacts on human health.

Medical professionals are encouraging people to use masks. Governments in many countries are encouraging or mandating people to use masks. Authorities appreciate the role of masks in reducing exposure to and spread of coronavirus. There are also contentious efforts to develop vaccines. The purpose of the vaccines is to prevent or reduce the effects of absorbed coronavirus in altering human cells and function to cause health problems and deaths. Testing and tracings are efforts channeled to know who has been exposed and possibly infected. Testing and tracings help to reduce the spread of the virus.

Despite the known benefits of masks, vaccines, and testing and tracing, they do not allow exposed people to know when they are being exposed to coronavirus. Thus, people will still be deprived of the ability to develop the required and on-time motivation to make the on-time intervention of reducing or avoiding exposure to, and inhalation, or absorbed dose of coronavirus. A digital solution that the process of information generation to knowledge and the development of motivation will be effective in reducing the risk associated with COVID-19.

When there is no exposure, inhalation, and absorbed dose due to on-time and appropriate intervention at an individual level, the possibility of coronavirus causing health problems, and even death will not exist. Reduction in exposure, inhalation, and absorbed dose will potentially reduce health problems and prevent death occurrence.

Some may think to have a digital solution for effective IAQ risk management decision making, as described, is wishful thinking. I believe such a school of thought is an insult to human capability. If humans can go to the moon and mars, the suggested digital solution is possible. Investment in resources for vaccines, masks, and testing and tracing that will help reducing the vulnerability and risk of succumbing to the impact of coronaviruses is essential.

However, investment should also be made in a user-centric digital solution that provides real-time accurate and appropriate knowledge about what, when, how, where, how much, why, and who of air pollutants of concern and associated vulnerability of exposed people, preferably at an individual level. This is of particular importance in indoor environments where most exposures occur.

Making such investment considering the global damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic is essential. Imagine being able to know, at an individual level, about being exposed to coronavirus and its concentration in real-time. Imagine how such knowledge will motivate people to make an immediate intervention to reduce their exposure.

Imagine how such knowledge will help reduce the spread of coronavirus and the number of people infected. Imagine the number of death that will be reduced. Imagine how the burden on medical facilities, resources, and personnel will be reduced. Imagine how the burden on government and our social and economic life will be reduced.

The unfortunate news is that the emergence of viruses that can cause such worldwide damage will likely occur again in the future. The world belongs to those who can envision user-centric intelligent solutions and have resources and dedication to bring it into reality to help humans make an effective and on-time decision to reduce the risk of being a victim of viruses and any other air pollutants.

Reducing vulnerability due to exposure is important, especially if we cannot eliminate the presence of hazards caused by humans or nature. Are you ready to bridge the digitalisation gap needed for effective IAQ risk management decision making?

Do you want to learn more about this topic? Read Carlsson (2018), De Nazelle et al. (2013), Hobfeld (2017) papers to learn more about the potential benefit of knowledge based digital solutions over those that are only information based in decision making.

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