Natural disasters and disease epidemics create a tsunami of knowledge gaps, fake or inaccurate news, with more opinions rather than actual facts and analysis. Much of this is underpinned with feelings of helplessness and fear. In response, two French expats based in Taiwan have created an app to track the coronavirus in real-time.

Kevin Basset and Maxime Michel spent an initial on coronavirus.app with the goal of informing people about the epidemic. I spoke to Kevin who explained, “We realized that although the coronavirus was all over the news, there wasn’t an easy way to track the toll. We thought we could build something useful, so we went ahead and developed the app.

For other cool insides on how devs are fighting problems, check out How AI Can Fight the Spread of Infectious Diseases.

The app provides a detailed map of the virus, tracking the number of infections, deaths and those who have recovered.

The map can also be viewed by searching a region or as a chart:

There’s a stories tab that aggregates news tweets about the virus which is curated by the app’s curators:

The app is manually updated at least every 6 hours with three main data sources:

    • The latest numbers provided by the governments
    • New monitoring: “We’ve set up quite a few google alerts in various languages so whenever there are reports of confirmed cases anywhere, we go ahead and update the numbers on the site.”
    • User submitted content – this is crosschecked with reports corroborated by multiple sources before their inclusion.

According to Kevin:

“The whole app is vanilla javascript. We just used a couple of open-source frameworks for the charts  from charts.js and the Open Layers for the map. The app is a progressive web app, so one can install it on their smartphone or desktop to keep track of the epidemic at any time.” 

We’re hosting the whole thing on Firebase, and the backend is javascript too (Node/Express).We host the whole app Firebase, and we use node.js on the backend (via Firebase Cloud Functions). I’m personally very fond of Firebase. I think it’s a great ecosystem, which even empowers non-developers like me to build decent apps.”

The duo stress that they have no intention of monetizing the app:

“We’re just happy to build something that people find helpful. And we care about the cause. We’re living in Taiwan, so not very far from the center of the epidemic. This app, it’s our way to fight the epidemic, with the weapons we have at our disposal.”

So far the app’s been well received. It was No.1 product on Product Hunt and has massed over 50k downloads. Kevin and Maxime are also working on building APIs so that developers can also use the data. They’ve added an embed option next to every single chart on the website, so anyone can go ahead and use that data as they see fit on their own site.

Tech is Here to Help:

A number of startups are responding to the need for accurate information and resources during critical emergencies:

Judy

This week in the US a service called Judy launched.  With the knowledge that 60% of Americans are unprepared for emergencies, they’ve created the first digitally connected emergency kit that provides you with the tips, reminders, and education to keep you prepared for any scenario.

The process is simple:

1. Log onto www.readyjudy.com

2. Enter your phone number, zip code, and household size. 

3. JUDY identifies the types of emergencies you’re most vulnerable based on where you live (ex: floods, wildfires, hurricanes).

4. JUDY sends you personalized videos, tips, reminders, and preparedness hacks.

Users can also buy equipment and resource kits – the team partnered with  “top survival experts”, f certified experts in emergency preparedness and have years of experience with organizations like the Red Cross and FEMA, to pick the most effective essentials for any time of need. 

CrowdSource Rescue

Tech doesn’t need to be overly complex to be life-saving. As Quartz reported: “On the night of Sunday, Aug. 28, 2017, Matthew Marchetti was one of thousands of Houstonians feeling powerless as their city drowned in tropical storm Harvey’s deluge. People needed help while waiting for emergency services.

By Monday morning, the 27-year-old developer, sitting in his leaky office, had slapped together an online mapping tool to track stranded residents. A day later, nearly 5,000 people had registered to be rescued, and 2,700 of them were safe.”

coronavirus-report

CrowdSource Rescue has helped connect over 12,000 professional and volunteer rescuers with 35,000 people across 19 natural disasters using its mapping and dispatching technology.

It’s a public-safety grade platform that uses next-generation technology to quickly connect both professional first-responders and vetted volunteers with response, relief, and recovery cases before, during, and immediately after a disaster.

Further Reading

Machine Learning, Graphs, and the Fake News Epidemic (Part 1)

Using AI to Predict Disease Outbreaks



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