Covid-19 pandemic numbers around the world at ncovtrack.com

Συνεντεύξεις

• The website for the coronavirus and the vaccine which was created by the Greek Glyfadian George Karabassis in Edinburgh

With the pandemic brought by the coronavirus to our daily lives, a student at the University of Edinburgh today, a Greek youth grown up in Glyfada, created a website collecting all data concerning the coronavirus numbers from around the world.

The ncovtrack.com website collects from all over the world the data and presents them collectively. Anyone who visits the website can easily and quickly see how many coronavirus cases there are, how many people have been vaccinated, tested, how many are in intensive care, how many have unfortunately been deceased and how many have been recovered by day, by country, by region, etc. A job which takes enough time which he has to provide the society with the information they are looking for. Something that makes him very happy since it is useful for the society. The whole project started from his personal need to search for detailed data for the coronavirus as he revealed to us. “PALMOS” spoke to the Glyfadian grown youth about this effort and encourages the young children who excel inside and outside of Greece. May the appropriate conditions be created so that George Karabassis and every other Greek person can eagerly offer their knowledge in their country.

[P]: Before you start the conversation, you would like to introduce yourself to your readership. 

GEORGE KARABASSIS: My name is George Karabassis and now I am in the United Kingdom studying Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh. I grew up in Glyfada, before moving to the UK, when I finished the second last year of High School.

[P]: Are you thinking of returning to Greece at some point?

G.K. : I would love to, but with my interests I want to focus on in the future, I find more opportunities abroad. I think I see myself ending up in the USA.

[P]: The quarantine found you abroad, but you took full advantage of it by creating a site for the coronavirus. Tell me about how did you come up with the idea?

G.K. : It all started when I was trying to find coronavirus data in Edinburgh that I was studying. I remember talking to some people about the numbers of cases in Scotland. They knew they existed in Glasgow, but we were unsure if they existed in Edinburgh. 

I was trying to find a website that had detailed coronavirus case numbers, but I could only find it by country and not for counties by Scotland. I also remember that I was looking for a site with coronavirus data per county of Greece to send to my grandparents, but I could not find any, except for the newsletters which would no longer be up to date the next day.

So, I decided to create my own site doing the hard work of finding the data deep on the internet while I had the available time, for people to visit the site and see the latest coronavirus statistics not only by country but also by region in Greece and Scotland, and also for other countries such as Germany, Portugal, USA, etc.

I found out that creating applications like ncovtrack.com, fills my interest, as long as I know that it helps the society. I want in the future to use my time and knowledge for creating type of projects which help the society. 

George Karabassis

[P]: Was it easy to implement? 

G.K. : Unfortunately, there were several difficulties and mistakes in my plans. 

When I had the idea, I did not have the necessary technical knowledge to implement the website. I had knowledge of web development and software development, but this site needed more sophisticated technical knowledge to be built.

When I began the construction, I did not learn the technologies first, but I learned them as I was developing the website with the mindset of “what do you need now?”. 

I never limited my knowledge but what I wanted to end up with, because now using the internet, I could find all the answers to the questions I had during the development.

Of course, this method came to a cost. When I finished the first phase of development, there were several flaws. For many users it loaded slowly, and many times did not open at all. There was more and more data but due to the poor code architecture, I had to “redo” it to make the website more stable. So, I spent the summer in parallel with working on other app projects to repair it and add more data together.

Because the code eventually ended up being more stable, I only had to change a few things to create the vaccine dashboard where it took me three days to become available and several weeks to find all the data for different countries and regions in parallel with my studies.

[P]: Did it need resources to spend and if so, did you find sponsors? 

G.K. : Only for the server where the website is hosted. With displaying one ad on the top and two down to the bottom to cover part of the cost of the server, the website is much more enjoyable to use than others like Worldometer where ads made it difficult to use. I do not have a sponsor, but the few ads come from Google.

[P]: How do you gather data around the world? 

G.K. : All information comes from official websites from the government of each country. 

These are the latest and most accurate and many countries have data available by county and region which is something that people need to be more certain about the situation in their local area. 

I saw Johns Hopkins providing the most accurate data per country and so the coronavirus data by country come from there. I also use data from the Worldometer, but only for data for total tests done and critical case numbers. 

[Q]: Is it something that requires many hours of work? 

G.K. : In the beginning it took several hours, I would say hundreds of hours for the site to be implemented properly. In terms of maintenance, I need at most two hours a day to check the data and if something goes wrong, to repair it on the spot. 

Unfortunately, as long as there are more than two billion websites out there, ncovtrack does not “appear” in the Search Engine results, and so I try to contact newsletters daily to help me promote it so that other people can see it and be informed whenever they want, if they miss the news from the TV. Unfortunately, very few are interested. 

[P]: Lately the website traffic has increased. Where do you attribute this? 

G.K. : Mainly from the vaccine dashboard. I was one of the first ones to set up a vaccine dashboard by early January, so when I published it in some community groups with purpose of sharing each other support for the pandemic, they liked it and I received a lot of positive feedback. This made me believe that there is a demand and so I started putting a little more emphasis to the promotion. 

[P]: Is there anything you want to improve? 

G.K. : Of course. I believe the website can end up loading much faster, maybe three or four times faster, if I make several repairs to the code.

I would also like to continue to put vaccine data from many other countries as well as coronavirus data. Regarding the vaccines, more and more countries are now posting detailed data which I continue using them for the website. Of course, every time I make an update, I try to promote it on my Twitter account @g_karabassis. 

Finally, regarding the vaccines, I would like to add a page where it contains in detail each vaccine that comes out. So far, two or three vaccines have been approved, but I have not provided any details. It’s something I will work on soon.

[P]: Who is it for and how easy is it to access this data? 

G.K. : I mainly think that the website has more interest towards those of age over 40 because the coronavirus disease is more harmful at these ages on average. Of course, I also have visits from younger ages too. 

Access is very easy. When someone opens the site, one immediately sees the data by country along with deaths, recoveries, tests, vaccines, etc. By clicking on the blue arrow in the table, the user can see statistics by area or region of that country. Of course, for convenience, I tell users to save the page to their bookmarks as long as the Search Engine does not show the page in the results yet. 

[P]: Is it your future job or will you pursue another interest? 

G.K. : Of course the website will continue to get better and easier to use in the next months and beyond. I found that creating applications like ncovtrack.com is interesting as I know it helps the society. I really want to use my time and knowledge to build such applications that help the society. I do not see myself becoming an employee of a company.