Published: 31st March 2020
This group of data geeks joined forces to set up Kerala's most reliable COVID-19 tracker
While the Kerala government does put up daily updates on the number of cases, this tracker provides additional information like gender, age and location, and is easy to use
Kerala releases the statistics on the COVID-19 cases every evening, perhaps better than any other states in India. For a layman, however, there is no easy-to-digest COVID-19 tracker website for a live update of the pandemic in the state.
Now, a group of Malayali tech volunteers from across the globe have joined hands to establish a Kerala COVID-19 tracker website, which goes a step further to give an effective visual representation of the outbreak in the state. The Covid19kerala.info, developed by like-minded persons and data geeks led by Dr Jijo P Ulahanan, Head of Department (Physics), Government College, Kasaragod, brings out a live update on coronavirus across Kerala, providing all the details including the district-wise break-up, the outbreak spread trend, new cases by day and confirmed case trajectories by district etc in a visually appealing manner. "We began this purely for an academic purpose, though the idea was also to provide the public easy to track single-point source for all Covid cases in Kerala," said Ulahanan.
During the 2018 flood, many online communities joined hands for providing various kinds of tech support, including information to help track the missing persons, providing relief measures and not just live data on the flood-affected persons. From the tech communities' perspective, this was seen missing in the coronavirus outbreak. That's when Nishad Thalath, a data geek and network security expert, who is pursuing metadata research at the University of Tsukuba, Japan contacted Ulahanan, a close friend and his senior at Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat). He floated the idea of a Covid tracker site, similar to Japan's covid tracker covid19japan.com. Soon other like-minded persons, who are experts in data modelling -- Jeevan U of Cusat, Nikhil Narayanan, Musafir, Dr AV Pradeep, Sreehari, Jaleel K, Saneesh Chengamand, Prem Prabhakar, Sooraj P Suresh and Sreekanth C - joined from their locations to set up the Kerala Covid tracker, which has now emerged as the most reliable source point for Covid updates from the state.
Ulahanan said that though the Kerala government was giving daily updates, some information is still missing. "We do not get the gender profile of the Covid-19 patients or their age profile, and that cannot help us in our predictions," he said. Do the tech volunteers plan to include other states going forward? Can the site predict the rise or fall of the COVID-19 patients? Nikhil Narayanan said the team's focus is on Kerala. "Our focus is on Kerala and the rise of this pandemic in the state. Some of us are experts at data modelling and we plan to include trend-predictors, at both the conservative and aggressive ends. We are closely monitoring the trajectory during this lockdown period and will do so even after till we have enough data points around Kerala to project the rise and fall of this pandemic." He said that there are scientists in the team looking at various infectious disease models."So far the data size is not sufficient for predictive modeling with regards to Kerala, even India," Narayanan concludes.