Developers of CovidNow website committed to helping pro bono as long as they’re needed

A screenshot of the CovidNow website. The four began by making data available through previous websites and channels but when they did, they were inundated with feedback on how to solve issues and to make the website better.
A screenshot of the CovidNow website. The four began by making data available through previous websites and channels but when they did, they were inundated with feedback on how to solve issues and to make the website better.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — The four men who helped develop the CovidNow website that gives the latest simplified data on Covid-19 are committed to help out for as long as they’re needed.

The quartet with backgrounds in various fields of web development said they did not feel the need to be compensated for their services as they wanted to contribute to the country in any way they could during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Are we committed to helping forever? Well I can and in my profession it’s great to be able to contribute,” said Sheng Han Lim a data scientist and back-end developer who created a website called My Vax Tracker to track the vaccination rate in Malaysia https://vax.tehcpeng.net/.

“As long as the website is needed and it is relevant I feel like all of us would want to be a part of it,” he said during a press conference via Zoom today.

Henry Lim, a front-end web developer who created the @MYVaccineCount Twitter bot to track the vaccination rate said one of the biggest challenges in trying to make the site accessible and user-friendly was from troubleshooting.

Henry currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand, and had to look at all the bugs and glitches that came with the site’s readability on handphones.

“That’s the reason we needed more eyes and different perspectives. I got a lot of feedback on minor bugs or something not working on small phone screens. This is where we can improve,” said Lim.

“Time was also a  constraint as we had day jobs and we could only meet on weekends. Finding extra time to add more features to this site is what we’re still doing now.”

They said the most time consuming thing was how to display the data in an easily digestible manner. 

In giving some background as to how the foursome managed to collaborate with the various agencies in charge of Covid-19, Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) head of data, Dr Mahesh Appannan said the Ministry of Health had been trying to figure out how to make the Covid-19 data readily available and current when they were starting the nationwide vaccination drive.

Under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme they wanted to track and manage vaccination numbers. 

They began by making data available through previous websites and channels but when they did, they were inundated with feedback on how to solve issues and to make the website better.

“A lot of data scientists reached out to us with beautiful dashboards through Twitter and other social media platforms. We felt if we could make people understand the information at hand in a better way we should do so and we reached out to these four.

“We then asked how we can move away from the most conventional ways of providing data,” said Mahesh.

That’s where Roshen Maghhan said he was able to contribute.

“I learned so much from Sheng during this time and I feel like I want to keep doing it for as long as I can. During the pandemic, I wanted to find a way to contribute and my skill set allowed me to do this. In the end, it was an enjoyable experience which I’m willing to continue to do,” said the software engineer for Bank Negara Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Calum Lim said as far as any money goes all four of them had a mutual agreement and that was to do this for free.

Calum had the entire front page design done in two weeks and several days later Henry came in with the code to run the page. 

After that came refinement and figuring out what should go into the site which took the longest time especially figuring out how to collate the data.

Despite all that, the four have still not asked for any payment.

“We had a mutual agreement on this monetary stuff and my goal was only to provide a platform for all Malaysians to look at, especially making a nicer looking one than the previous one,” said Lim a full-stack developer and user interface designer.

Malaysia has thus far vaccinated 88 per cent of its adult population while 94.4 per cent of adults have got at least one dose. A total of 44,573,891 vaccines have been administered as of the time of writing.

According to the CovidNow website 8,696,237 individuals have yet to be vaccinated.

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