Muslamic Makers Tech Spotlight – Furquan Ahmed
Many of our community members have been working on interesting Covid19 responses. Here is a great blog post from Muslamic Makers Volunteer Furquan Ahmed, who has built a dashboard to show key statistics around Covid-19.
Assalamu Alaikum. I’m Furquan Ahmad and together with Ali Zafar, we decided to develop a Covid 19 web app to allow you to understand the wider impact of Covid-19 on us as a society but in a simple way.
Covid-19 – Understanding the bigger picture
There is a lot of information about Covid-19 circulating the internet. However this information is in long-form articles that can be confusing to understand. To address this, we have developed Covid-19 Live.
We believe everybody should be able to explore and understand Covid-19 related data in a clear way. We also think it is important to raise awareness of the wider impacts the virus will have on us all. What can we do to support each other and those on the frontlines?
What is Covid-19 Live?
Covid-19 Live is a web-application with a UK focus, providing information about the current pandemic. It makes it easy to see how many reported cases there have been in the UK in total, in the last 7 days and in the last 24 hours. It has 3 key features:
1. How effective has the lockdown been?
Many of us will be wondering if the government measures such as social distancing and lockdown have been effective? The UK officially implemented the lockdown strategy on 23rd March. To understand whether this has had any impact, we want to look at how many new cases are being reported each day.
If the number of new cases reported today is consistently less than the number of new reported cases yesterday it can suggest we are either at the peak, or beyond the worst in terms of the number of infections.
Our web-app allows you to produce and explore this visualisation very easily, by selecting options from the drop down menus. You can compare data on reported cases, deaths and recoveries, and see either the total numbers or new reports per day for any country that has reported data such as Italy, Spain or America.
As expected, we see roughly a two-week lag between the implementation of the lockdown and the number of new reports starting to flatten. The trend has been reasonably flat since, which is encouraging. Whilst we are not out of this yet, it suggests the situation is not getting significantly worse.
2. Understanding the wider impacts
Covid-19 is going to have significant, lasting impacts on all of us beyond the threat of infection. During lockdown, some groups become very vulnerable. For example, victims of domestic abuse have a reduced ability to escape their abusers. We have already seen a 25% increase in call to domestic violence helplines since the lockdown began – BBC
Many of us will struggle with our mental health. Without being able to see friends, family and colleagues, we can slip into states of depression and many more will start to feel lonely.
Whilst Covid-19 is having devastating short-term impacts on all of us, we need to think about the longer term too. It is important that people are made aware of the issues and given information on what they can do to help.
To assist with this, we’ve created a dedicated page on our web app and also set up a Twitter account @COVID19LiveUK to help spread this important information.
3. Donate page
Many of us want to contribute in the fight against this virus. But how do we know which charities to support?
We’ve also created a page dedicated to exactly this. It shows you a list of charities to support during this crisis and takes you to their websites. We hope that having this central hub will encourage more people to donate and support the causes, and also encourage people to support a wider range of charities than they usually do.
Why did we build it?
Accurate information – It is important to empower us to act as individuals, especially during this crisis. More so, it is important that the information is easy to consume so it reaches as many people as possible.
A need for data visualisation – We were not aware of any existing tools that allow you to visualise and interact with Covid-19 data. Most sites have a selection of graphics, but they are all fixed. We wanted to be able to explore worldwide data and compare across countries.
A need for wider impact knowledge – We also thought that there wasn’t enough awareness of the wider impacts of Covid-19. The mainstream narrative is generally focussed on the direct impacts of the virus and how many people have been infected.
A spike in social & health issues – We believe it is just as important to recognise how incidents of depression and domestic violence are on the rise and give a voice to the most vulnerable in our society. Over 5 million people in the UK are diagnosed as depressed, and there were over 1 million reported incidents of domestic violence in the UK last year.
Encourage action – These issues do not just exist in the vacuum of this pandemic. However, we hope that by raising awareness of the seriousness of these issues in this context, will encourage individuals to take more action going forward. It is important that we as a society are able to protect our most vulnerable.
The tech behind the app
Neither of us are web developers, so we also saw this as a great opportunity to teach ourselves a new skill in our newfound free time while giving something back to the community. It was a steep learning curve, but a great experience.
For those with a technical interest, here are some details on how we created it:
The design of our website was created in Figma. The key for us when designing the site was to make sure the hierarchy is clear so the user can easily see the amount of cases in the UK.
You can access the Figma community file here and remix it to suit your needs.
Web app Back-end
The engine of our web app is built using Python. Our coronavirus data comes directly from John Hopkins CSSE GitHub repo. We used Flask to make the web application since it allowed a pure Python solution, which was most suited to our skill sets. All of our code is available on GitHub for you to explore yourself
Web app Front-end
The front end is built using the Bootstrap framework. Bootstrap is easy enough to learn and allows you to build effective, clean web pages with little overheads. It also makes building responsive web pages (i.e. pages that scale with the screen size) very easy, so it was the obvious solution.
Covid-19 is affecting all of us and it will continue to do so. It is important we all have access to easy to consume information and remain aware of the bigger picture. We hope that we contributed effectively to this cause.
And if you like our web app, don’t forget to share it with your friends ❤️
Furquan Ahmad, Ali Zafar