UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Welcome to the revolution : COVID-19 and the democratization of spatial-temporal data Koch, Tom


On January 22, 2020, Johns Hopkins University launched its online COVID-19 dashboard to track in real time what began in December as the regional outbreak of a novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. The dashboard and its format were quickly adopted by other organizations, making global, national, and regional data on the pandemic available to all. The wealth of data freely offered in this way was collected by syndromic programs whose precise algorithms search official and popular sources for data on COVID-19 and other diseases. The dashboard signals a new phase in the maturation of the ‘‘digital revolution’’ from paper resources and, in their popular employ, a ‘‘democratizion’’ of data and their presentation. This perspective thus uses the COVID-19 experience as an example of the effect of this digital revolution on both expert and popular audiences. Understanding it permits a broader perspective on not simply the pandemic but also the cultural and socioeconomic context in which it has occurred.

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