Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fighting the MOOCDEMIC with Open Source GIS

The MOOCDEMIC, billed as the world's first online epidemic, is an web-based app that simulates infectious disease dynamics--part of a Coursera course.  Coursera courses are free massive open online courses. 

Moreover, the app is also GIS based and anyone can participate.  Participants "scan" for infection from their present position with a mobile device.  How cases are being seeded or created has not yet made been clear to participants.  So, stay tuned... The course creators also created a game called "Vax" showing differences between vaccination strategies.

The epidemic is about half-way over, at least in terms of course time, and here are a few physical and online maps that I have produced using QGIS and CartoDB. The course instructors have released a basic *.text file of date/times and coordinates for crowd sourced analysis.  CartoDB allows for beautiful maps to be created quickly, has CartoCSS elements, but does not require the expertise and time as other packages such as MapBox/TileMill.

What I chose and why:  I chose to use QGIS as my desktop GIS platform.  In addition, I chose Natural Earth for my base layers.  Using both, I knew that any of my tens of thousands classmates could duplicate my work for no cost.  Furthermore, they maintain accuracy worldwide but keep details to a minimum, so I could work with them quickly.  I did not need to be bogged down with huge layers or downloads. 

The physical maps are below and a link to one interactive map with cases can be found here:  Click on the maps below to enlarge them.

Week 1 Map: Early in the epidemic...

Hong Kong: Generated/fake "cases" appear to be located in
 the water through error or perhaps how they are being generated.