Smarter Than Covid

By Keagan Stokoe & Zach Wolpe

We are living through a period about which history books will be written, theses will be based, and stories will be told. As we live through this period of history, plenty of uncertainty surrounds us. In an attempt to make data accessible and transparent, Smarter Than Covid was formed to disseminate information to the public. This is how we set out to build tools for major South African policy and decision-makers to handle the Covid19 crisis intelligently.

The data used to generate these plots was obtained from a host of sources, including various R packages, GitHub repositories and web scraping scripts written to extract specific data.

Links to the code available below.

Data is powerful, and when a user is afforded the opportunity to interact with the data, they’re given a better understanding of it. During a pandemic, it’s vital for ordinary people to understand what’s happening around the world. Built in R and deployed as a Flexdashboard through Shiny, the Smarter Than Covid website allowed for just that.

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The image above shows the interactive dashboard, with three separate pages, namely, ‘South Africa’, ‘Country Analysis’ and ‘Global Economy.’

Total cases around the world are displayed, as well as bars indicating the number of recovered cases and the number of deaths.

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The interactive world map allows users to select a country. Once selected, a selection of information is displayed for the selected country.

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This plot illustrates the growth of South African cases.

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A pie chart showing the split of cases in each South African province.

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With an interactive page, users were able to select the country they wished to view. Upon selection, a variety of information is presented. This includes:

  • Deaths per day.
  • A summary, indicating total active cases, recovered cases and deaths.
  • Effectiveness of response. This graph is a key indicator of whether measures being implemented by the recovery are resulting in fewer cases, fewer deaths and more recoveries.
  • Age Distribution. This was particularly relevant as there was a direct correlation between an older population and the number of deaths due to the Coronavirus. For an example of this, see the Italian analysis in the images below.
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An analysis of the impact of the Coronavirus on the global economy was also conducted, allowing the user to select markets of interest and see fluctuations in the market over time.

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In an attempt to make the information accessible, we created a mobile app. The problem with attempting to build a mobile app during the Coronavirus Crisis was that any virus related apps were prohibited from app stores. We got creative and developed the app below through Glide Apps. Glide makes it possible to turn Google Sheets spreadsheets into beautiful apps.

The app continually pulls data from the web, remaining constantly up to date with the latest number of active, recovered and fatal cases, on a worldwide and South African basis. Additionally, a map was implemented to display testing centres in South Africa.

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Our marketing plan was rolled out through a series of images. These images included a call for assistance, which was duly met by willing and able persons, excited to assist during a time when South Africa needed it. Thank you all!

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Conclusion

This project was started in the hopes of making a big impact during a time of national crisis. Although the impact we made was not as substantial as we would have liked, the project provided immense value from a technical perspective, as well as learning to work in a team.

Thank you to everybody for their assistance and work along the way, it is always appreciated!

Statistician, scientist, technologist — writing about stats, data science, math, philosophy, poetry & any other flavours that occupy my mind. Get in touch

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