It’s been a while since we wrote. And this one is an important update. So please read on in case you’ve been following our work.
We started on 14th March 2020. Then there were a few handful of cases and the reporting was hapazard to say the least. Over time, the state/central agencies got more organised in their reporting, and so did our systems. We’ve gone through almost a year now (a month and a half shy of a full year as we write). For all these days we’ve been curating and updating the data on the website and API without a single day being missed. We’ve seen the data being used across research papers and organisations. We’ve seen the value of the data we have been collecting. We had hoped to make a small difference but the result has been bigger than what anyone of us had imagined.
To give you an overview of the work - we have 700+ districts in India. With four data points (confirmed, recovered, deceased, tested) collected per district there are potentially 2800 data points per day. Yes, a lot of districts/states do not give enough details, so we have lesser data to collect, but still the data is vast. The reporting mechanisms by the state/central authorities does not make things easier either. Each state releases its bulletin separately in a different format, so there is no central reporting to pull from. Automation has reduced a lot of the manual effort that was required before. We have resorted to heavy use of OCR to extract data. Even then the last mile delivery (the final entry) is done by volunteers to avoid any glaring mistakes.
So what’s the aim of this post? Well, we’ve been discussing.
Over the last few weeks, we have been having internal discussions on a critical topic - “When do we call it quits?”
It’s not a question on which we have an agreement. There are varying opinions on this. One of the things we have been evaluating is whether we have the bandwidth to collect data when normal life seems to have resumed in a lot of places. Many of the volunteers who were active before haven’t been able to spend time due to the resumption of their personal/professional lives in full capacities. This has put the work of data updation on a handful of volunteers which we believe is not fair for us as an initiative. While we understand the importance of the data, we also realise that there’s an operational limit.
The result of these conversations is two-fold:
- We are scaling down our operations. The testing data being collected for districts has been discontinued starting 2nd Feb 2021.
- We will regroup every few weeks to evaluate what our end goal will be.
These two decisions are driven based on necessity and reality. The necessity of not overloading people with work. And the reality of some of the data losing its importance. We aren’t seeing a lot of work being done on district testing data that we have collected. And the sources for testing data are extremely varied and difficult. Most of the times they are not part of the same bulletins released by the states so we have to resort to secondary sources (newspapers et al). This makes automation a challenge. Hence, starting 2nd Feb 2021, the district testing data has been discontinued. This reflects across the website and the API. The state/district case reporting, state level testing numbers, the vaccination data (whatever is available) will continue to flow as is. These won’t change as of now.
Over the last year, a lot of you folks have helped us in different ways. We sincerely appreciate all the help! Many have volunteered with us, many have cheered us on, many have shown us the value of the data we have collected, many have kept us on our toes by reporting issues. But most of all, all of you have made us believe that honest collaborations can lead to great results. You folks have brought a smile on our faces many a times. Thank you for that :)
We will continue to remain open and transparent about our thought processes and decisions with all of you folks. But eventually this intiative will stop. That’s a reality we cannot deny. Until then, we will continue to take one day at a time.
Until we write again,