US student builds website to track COVID-19 in India

(IANS) In the midst of the global pandemic, a computer science student from the US, has created a website to help India keep track of COVID-19 infection rates.

Jeremy Philemon has applied his skills in the creation and updating of covid19india.org, a website that aggregates data from every part of the country of 1.35 billion people.

The covid19india.org website presents a “tracker” based on that database of up-to-date numbers entered by hundreds of volunteers.Over the past two months, theAwebsite has received more than 1.75 billion page views.Philemon started the website in early March 2020 when India saw a sudden jump in positive COVID-19 cases. He realised there was no central place for residents and officials to find data on infection rates.

He is splitting his education between the Vellore Institute of Technology in India and Binghamton”s Thomas J Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science in the US.

“Each of the 28 states and eight union territories had their separate channels of communication and reporting, each of them with varying degrees of granularity,” said Philemo.

It got a lot harder for an average person or even a data scientist to get hold of all the information in one place, he added. He connected with a team of researchers who were tracking the novel coronavirus through state-released bulletins and news sources reporting on behalf of medical institutions. “

Apart from the ordinary people using it to be aware of the current situation of the country, we”ve had a few states” task forces also monitoring the website to keep up with their reports,” Philemon said.

“We”ve also had researchers and data analysts working on the dataset to figure out where we might be headed in the coming days,” he said.

The skills he learned at VIT and Binghamton have guided his programming for this project. He also open-sourced the website on the software development platform GitHub, which helped to patch bugs and to introduce new features and improvements.

“Keeping the website small, easily accessible on slower network speeds and compatible on almost all devices across different browsers has been quite challenging,” he said.

Designing covid19india.org also has taught him more about tailoring website design with users in mind. He wanted to make sure that the COVID-19 infection rates were presented in a way that was not overwhelming and desensitizing to those who visited the website.

“It”s been quite an enlightening experience whenever I had to spend time researching about visualisations and attempts at humanising them,” Philemo noted.

With 5,609 new COVID-19 cases and 132 new fatalities in the last 24 hours, the total tally of such infections in India stood at 1,12,359 on Thursday, the Health Ministry data revealed.

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