Visualizing and Communicating COVID-19 Data Effectively; A Technical Analysis of International Responses to COVID-19

Moder, Edward, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Qi, Yanjun, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives to date, and digital technologies have been an integral weapon for humanity in the fight against this deadly disease. The technical project that was pursued was a COVID-19 dashboard, used both to track key metrics about the pandemic, as well as to notify people of changes in these metrics in the user’s chosen area. The end goal was to provide a tool for people to understand and avoid the novel coronavirus in as informed a way as possible by reducing the friction between the end user and several sources of information available to them. The tightly coupled STS research paper then seeks out different technological approaches employed around the world to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and it analyzes the efficacy of these technologies on a global scale. By both proposing and researching technologies that are designed to fight the ongoing pandemic, the technical and STS components are closely related.
At the beginning of the pandemic, information about the novel coronavirus and its spread was extremely scattered and decentralized. In order to combat this problem, my technical group proposed a tool to gather information from different sources and present it to users through an intuitive, interactive heat map. The notification system embedded in this application would allow for greater interactivity between users and important metrics about the pandemic, allowing users to stay safe and avoid areas of high spread. By signing up for notifications, the burden of seeking information no longer falls on the users, as the information they need will now be delivered directly to them. This makes it easy for people to stay safe during such dangerous times.
The technical proposal resulted in a functioning prototype of both the heat map and the notification system, which can both be used to keep people informed about the dangers of the coronavirus. The technical report outlines several key details about the nature of the proposal, including what sources the information may come from, what platforms would be used for development and deployment, and more. The proposal also includes suggestions on future work, including expanding the platform beyond just the United States, or gathering and consolidating information from several different sources at once to provide to the end user.
The accompanying STS research paper sought to discover other technological measures being used around the world to monitor and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In addition, by analyzing these techniques at ethical, practical, and sociotechnical levels, the goal of the STS research paper was to determine which of these technologies could feasibly be deployed on a much larger, global scale. Several scholarly journals and reputable newspapers were consulted to find case studies and information about the deployment of certain technologies in countries outside of the United States.
The STS research paper mostly focused on three technological measures: artificial intelligence (AI), telemedicine, and GPS and travel history tracking at a personal level. It is concluded in the paper that AI and telemedicine are viable solutions to employ around the world, with the understanding that AI must only use anonymized data in the development of its models, as well as the understanding that telemedicine is only a viable solution in the short term. GPS and travel tracking, on the other hand, are not viable global mitigation strategies due to major ethical and practical concerns.
The goal of an engineer and of a computer scientist should always be to use technology to help people and to make the world a better place. By proposing and analyzing technologies that help prevent the spread of a truly deadly and highly infectious disease, this mission has been accomplished through both the technical project and the STS research paper. The technologies discussed in each of these reports have the capability to save lives during this pandemic, as well as any and all future worldwide epidemiological crises.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
COVID-19, Social Construction of Technology, International

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Yanjun Qi
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Evan Bernard, Matthew Hoffman

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