The role of data dashboards in COVID-19 & beyond
Esri’s ArcGIS may sound like a random assembly of letters strung together, but it actually refers to a type of technology that most of us have been interacting with either on our laptops, desktops or phones. One of the most relevant examples of ArcGIS in action is the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard (Johns Hopkins Covid-19 Dashboard) which is a website that was assembled by the University’s Centre for Systems Science and Engineering. The dash board tracks the total number of infections world-wide, as well as by country. The dashboard also tracks global deaths as well as the number of recoveries in the US. The dashboard’s focal point is an interactive heat map that shows the active number of cases as well as the number of deaths per country. The US dominates the heat map with a flood of red as it boasts the highest number of cases by far at almost 2 million (at the time this article was written). In a controversial move, Brazil, who sits second on the list has officially opted to no longer publish their Covid-19 figures and has removed its online Covid-19 data in order to keep its rapidly rising death toll under wraps. At the other end of the spectrum – Lesotho sits on the bottom of the somewhat morbid leader board with only 4 active cases (as of the beginning of June).
ArcGIS (Geographical Information System) is proprietary software developed and maintained by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri). The software platform allows for geographic data along with map systems and the composition and analyses of geographic information to provide the user or viewer with specific geographical insights. The point of the platform is to share the information and allow for interaction and engagement across communities, throughout organisations, or in the case of the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard, across the entire web. In addition to the Johns Hopkins dashboard, many US based states have opted to use the same format in order to keep their communities up to date on the COVID-19 cases.
Esri’s ArcGIS dashboards present the geographical data in such a way that it can be relatively easily digested by the general public, depending on the complexity and amount of information displayed at any given time. The disaster management team at Esri noted that more than 3,700 organisations are currently using their software for the purposes of creating and displaying COVID-19 related dashboards. According to Ryan Lanclos, who heads up the program at Esri, many of the companies now utilising the dashboards have never had a need for such a platform before now. The Johns Hopkins site receives more than three million hits an hour. For those of us who do not want to spend ages scrolling through articles and endless statistics, dashboards provide an effective and streamlined way of staying up to date without all the additional peripheral information.