Indian student at Virginia develops app to track coronavirus across the world

Ritu Jha-

A third-year Computer Science and Mathematics double major student at the University of Virginia, Soukarya Ghosh has developed an application ‘TrackCorona‘ to track how far and wide across the world the virus has spread.

Sourcing data from authentic sources like John Hopkins, WHO, CDC etc, the students have developed a system to show the magnitude of coronavirus across the world.

As one of the co-founders of the app, Ghosh spoke to indica in detail and the purpose they aim to serve.

(Left)Soukarya Ghosh looking at data with James Yun.

Describing the origin of the app, he said, “We initially came up with this idea in the early days of the spread, when it was contained to Wuhan, China, around January 27. Initially, it was just me and one of my fourth-year friends from the University of Virginia, James Yun. However, a week in, we realized the project was too massive for the two of us, so we invited our friends from high school to join in as well. They are Bilguunzaya Battogtokh, a junior at Stanford University, and Austin Stout, a junior at Virginia Tech. They are all Computer Science majors. It has been the four of us the entire time, with consultations from friends and professors about where to go next with the project.”

Initially, the students aimed to inform the local community at the University of Virginia about the virus and have them be aware of its existence. At the time, data was very limited and only being reported by very few sources. John Hopkins is one of them, he told indica in an interview. After the number of patients started rising, and there was a substantial lack of organized data, the students broadened the scope of the website.

“We were very concerned about how an uncontextualized dashboard would look to the public, as the possibility of raising hysteria with big numbers such as thousands of deaths was high. So we broadened the scope of our project to be more educational. We linked verified research articles, good practices, a timeline of the outbreak, comparisons to past outbreaks to give a sense of scale, and a lot more. More recently, we have outpaced other data sources by creating an aggregation algorithm that fetches data from many different sources and reports the most up to date numbers. We aim to be the one-stop source for all information about the virus, and this is something we are continuously working towards with new features and additions,” Ghosh said.

Bilguunzaya Battogtokh
Austin Stout

Talking about the software they developed to track the real-time data, he said, “We use our own code to track real-time data. We have been developing this program for the past two months now and refine it every single day to make it the most up to date as we can. As of now, we have the automated update process running every 30 minutes, so our data is only hindered by how fast our sources update”, adding, “These sources include government websites for individual countries, WHO, CDC, DXY (a Chinese website crowdsourced by medical professionals), news outlets, and much more. The aggregation algorithm fetches as much data as it can and displays the one that is most up to date.”

The students are also tracking the situation in India and are still working to get more refined data. They have also dedicated a section to busting myths and fake news related to the speared of the virus.

“We are tracking the entire world right now. Currently, we have data on India by region but have not found city level yet. We are working on getting more refined data (city-level) as we go.

“We noticed there is a plethora of misinformation and misconceptions being spread about the virus. Especially in terms of the numbers, what the symptoms are, how to fight it, etc. We aim to eliminate as much of this as we can, which is why we’ve set up a page dedicated to it”, he said.

Ghosh further said that the rate of the growth of the virus had surprised everyone. None of the outbreaks in the past were as severe or widespread as the COVID-19.

“Right now the best we can do is practice self-isolation and social distancing as our world works slowly towards a vaccine,” he said.

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