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Malaysia rolls out a simplified platform, developed by four talented youths, as it prepares to move into the endemic phase of the Covid-19 outbreak

Malaysia's Ministry of Health (MoH) has launched a simplified platform that will provide all daily information related to Covid-19 including more granular data that was previously unavailable in a bid to increase transparency. Available to the public and private players alike, the new CovidNow website will provide the latest Covid-19 information in the country, with the addition of new and detailed information to enable the full involvement of the community and an accurate understanding of the current Covid-19 situation.

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"Starting today, in line with my desire to be more transparent in the sharing of information and for us lift the veil of secrecy around data and statistics, the MoH will launch the new CovidNow website," health minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced at a press conference. "The latest daily data will be available on CovidNow after 12 midnight every night." He adds that among the new dataset to be made available are the number of tests, active cases and death rates by state, and utilisation of breathing support equipment. 

The MoH has also tweaked some of the denominators used previously, like reporting the number of coronavirus-related deaths based on the time of death instead of reporting only when deaths are confirmed, which had caused backlogs that drove the daily numbers up.

In the spirit of collaboration between MoH and the open data community, the ministry has engaged a group of innovative developers to build the CovidNow website–100 per cent pro bono. The four talented youths are website developers Henry Lim, Calum Lim, Sheng Han Lim, and Roshen Maghan, and they are gunning to help Malaysians understand the Covid-19 pandemic in the country better.

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"We got together and worked with MoH over almost a month on building a transparent, easy to understand dashboard to better inform the public, organisations, and policymakers on the state of the pandemic. The idea behind open data is simple: an all-of-society approach to work towards a similar goal. That for Malaysia, is to win the battle against Covid-19. I'm thankful to the MoH, Khairy Jamaluddin, and his team for the opportunity and openness in collaborating with the open data community," backend developer and data scientist Sheng Han tweeted. Sheng Han is also the creator of MY Vax Tacker, Malaysia's progress to 80 per cent vaccination target tracker.

Echoing his statement is front-end web developer Henry, who said: "I believe that Covid-19 data should be easily accessible by anyone, anywhere. It was nice to see Malaysia's MoH open-sourcing their datasets–I was able to develop products which helped people get a better understanding of the epidemic in Malaysia." The Google developer expert for web technologies and creator of Remote for Slide, an app that allows users to control Google Slides on any device remotely without the need of any extra hardware, previously developed vaccination tracker @MYVaccineCount as his way of contributing to the nation.

Adding on to Sheng Han's tweet, fellow CovidNow backend developer Roshen said: "We did CovidNow voluntarily. We didn't want to be paid for this and we're delighted that the MoH recognised us on the official site. We hope people focus on an amazing development with tons of data made open by the MoH. That's the win." A self-taught programmer who began coding at the age of 13 and is skilled in web and application development, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), machine learning, Roshen is also a contracted software engineer at Bank Negara Malaysia.

See also: Covid-19: Self-Test Kits In Malaysia & How They Work

In dropping hints about how to utilise the website better, Calum said that CovidNow can actually be used as an app on smartphones and tablets. Users simply need to add the website to their smartphone's or tablet's home screen so that they can subsequently access it with a single tap. Sheng Han adds that the best time to check CovidNow is "every morning as you wake up, for a full-day data of the day before".