Tracker created to provide reliable source of information

  • Nation
  • Monday, 17 Feb 2020

PETALING JAYA: Technology, when harnessed well, allows information to be tracked at a much faster pace, especially in helping to monitor the spread of Covid-19 (novel coronavirus).

Dr Lau Cher Han, a Malaysian data scientist, founded a Covid-19 tracker with the aim of countering the spread of misinformation and to serve as a reliable source of information to the public.

“Our main goal is to keep track of the latest stats and news from reliable sources, so users are encourage to visit our website or telegram group to validate the information first.

“We use crawlers that automatically gather data from sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Tencent and news outlets, ” he said.

The tracker,, is a community-based open-sourced project by more than 460 volunteers consisting of data scientists, researchers, developers and designers from all over the world.

The coronatracker, which started development work on Jan 25, was launched in just two days.

Dr Lau said he was inspired to work on the coronatracker when he stumbled upon the JHU coronavirus outbreak map on Chinese New Year eve.

“I realised that a map view like that (from JHU) only gives us a high-level overview of the statistics over the world.

“So many questions popped up in my head, like are there cases in Malaysia?

“What are the news reports around it? Where did it happen? Are they being treated? These are important news information that would help us to prepare, ” he said.

Comparatively, Dr Lau said that during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were non-existent and people had to rely on traditional channels like newspapers, radio and television to keep up to date.

He said technology had definitely made it easier to collect information to track the spread of the disease from multiple sources, especially when official organisations and government bodies were publishing information regularly.

On Saturday, the coronatracker broke one million page views with most users aged between 18 and 45.

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