Crowdsourcing app aims to fill gaps in coronavirus data

Cornell University
30-Mar-2020 1:05 PM EDT, by Cornell University

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – As a health tech master’s student at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, David Hachuel, developed an award-winning app to empower sufferers of gastrointestinal illness. Watching the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, Hachuel and his business partner realized they could apply some of those same principles to provide individuals and local governments with information about the virus.

Over the course of a weekend, they developed Opendemic, an app allowing users to anonymously share their locations and COVID-19 status to receive alerts about other nearby cases, both potential and verified.

“We wanted to help solve the issue of the lack of actual data on who has symptoms,” said Hachuel, who is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at Harvard University. “Because of the lack of test kits, we need to rely on self-reporting, and the idea here is to have a database that can be open to public health authorities so they can use that data, in addition to the data they already have, to make decisions about the right interventions.”

To inspire members of the public to share their data, the app offers information about how many COVID-19 cases are nearby, to better inform their own decisions about social distancing. 

Hachuel and his partner, Alfonso Martinez, an MBA student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are also reaching out to other teams developing similar projects, to coordinate their efforts to compile the largest-possible pool of data.

“The idea was to help patients, and I think with Opendemic we’re replicating that to some extent,” he said. “There’s certainly a lot of power in the behavioral and design and technological aspects of how health care can be delivered.”

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

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