The Covid-19 pandemic has hit small businesses hard globally and according to Facebook, one in four small and medium businesses (SMBs) had to shut their operations in 2020.
To chart a new path for their recovery in 2021 as part of its 'Data for Good' programme, the social networking giant has launched four new datasets and insights that would help researchers, nonprofits and local officials identify which areas and businesses may need the most support.
The four datasets are called Business Activity Trends, Commuting Zones, Economic Insights from the Symptom Survey and the latest Future of Business Survey results.
"Researchers estimate that over the next five years, the global economy could suffer over $80 trillion in losses due to Covid-19. Small businesses in particular are being hit hard," said Laura McGorman, Public Policy Manager at Facebook.
"Small businesses and people around the world are suffering devastating financial losses due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and public institutions need real time information to help."
Since the real time information on business activity is scarce, Facebook has partnered with the University of Bristol to aggregate information from Facebook Business Pages to estimate the change in activity among local businesses around the world and how they respond and recover from crises over time.
Business Activity Trends can be used to determine how businesses and customers are reacting to local Covid-19 containment policies.
According to Flavia De Luca, Senior Lecturer in Structural and Earthquake Engineering at the University of Bristol, by using real-time information from Facebook, "we hope to make it easier for public institutions to better respond to these events".
To better understand how economic areas differ from traditional administrative boundaries, Facebook said it has built international datasets based on Commuting Zones, which are areas where people spend most of their time.
"Our global version can help researchers better understand how geographic areas are likely to recover based on changing commuting and travel patterns," Facebook said.
Facebook said that in many countries around the world, it has seen people's concerns about household finances increase alongside the rise in cases, suggesting that as the public health effects of the pandemic grow, the economic impact it has on families increases as well.
"As policymakers evaluate and respond to the rapidly changing health and economic situations in their regions, it is important to have timely information about how the situation of people regarding their economic security is changing," said Frauke Kreuter, Director of University of Maryland's Joint Program in Survey Methodology.
"Having this dataset with daily information is an invaluable resource to see what has happened over the course of the pandemic."
Facebook released the new findings in its Global State of Small Business report this week and is now making the country-level survey data publicly available for all.
"These new tools build on the existing range of data products that our Data for Good program offers public health officials to help combat Covid-19 around the world," the company said.