Open Data versus the Coronavirus

Unfortunately due to the uncertainty surrounding the Wuhan novel coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong, it has been decided to call off the International Open Data Day 2020 event and hackathon being planned in Hong Kong. This is a particular pity because Open Data is needed more than ever to get the outbreak under control, fill the information vacuum leading to conspiracy theories and shops running out of food. Life-and-death situations are particularly susceptible to wild speculation and panic filling the vacuum, and closed risks lives.

While it’s frustrating that most public meetups and gatherings for the next few months have been cancelled in Hong Kong, for people that want to do something to help or at least get themselves more informed, with modern digital technologies we fortunately don’t have to leave the house. To the rescue there are some virtual events specifically focused on understanding and tackling the outbreak using open data and data science being organised.

Coronavirus open dataAll this makes the coronavirus crisis a perfect opportunity to harness the benefits and showcase the utility of open, data driven approaches. Firstly, our friends at Open Source Hong Kong are running a project collecting data on the outbreak from the news, press release and social networks, and releasing it under an open license on GitHub. Even the Hong Kong Government seems to be following more data literate approaches, setting up a real-time Hong Kong Coronavirus dashboard very similar to the global Johns Hopkins University CSSE one (and likely leveraging their connections with ESRI).

Finally, ODHK are pleased to participate in an interactive, online event organised by DSHK: the data science community of Hong Kong, on Sunday 9th February from noon to 1.30pm Hong Kong time. Following in the tradition of the “Hack the Zika Virus” hackathon we participated in back in 2016, we hope this can empower citizens with the knowledge and tools to better equip themselves to understand and join the fight against the outbreak. Dr. Guy Freeman from DSHK, Dr. Scott Edmunds from ODHK and GigaScience, and Professor Ben Cowling from HKU will present a 90-minute workshop on how to understand and analyse the Wuhan coronavirus, from gathering relevant data to analysing and visualizing its spread. Sign up and subscribe to the youtube channel to watch and ask questions online, or catch up and watch the archived live stream later.

Rundown on Sunday 9th February from 12 noon HKT (UTC +8):
12:00 HKT: Dr. Guy Freeman from DSHK will kick things off by giving a data science perspective on gathering online data for one’s own purposes, e.g. the number of cases over time, or search volumes of certain terms.

From 12:30pm ODHK’s Scott Edmunds will talk about the open sequencing data, what is available and how to analyse and understand it, e.g., via open and interactive tools like nextstrain.

From 1pm Professor Ben Cowling will talk about the data and calculations behind measuring the transmission dynamics of 2019-nCoV that were used to write his NEJM paper.

As an online hangout hopefully there will be an opportunity to ask questions online and via social media.

Follow along on youtube here: