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Open Data versus the Mosquito
The current global panic about zika can be boiled down a “data gap” issue. Gaps in understanding of why it has started spreading so rapidly now, a gulf in fathoming its effects on pregnant women (evidence linking zika and microcephaly is still only spatio-temporal rather than causational), and gaps in sharing the research data and clinical specimens that will enable the global research community to keep one step ahead of the virus spread. As with Ebola, there has been much frustration of many key players not sharing these materials. Despite the fact that in a life-and-death situation wild speculation and panic fills the vacuum, and closed data risks lives.

All this makes the zika crisis a perfect opportunity to harness the benefits and showcase the utility of open approaches. In particularly open and collaborative efforts using Open Data and Open Source hardware. An international group of makers / hackers / scientists / citizen scientists trying to develop innovative measures against zika, and Open Data Hong Kong have teamed up with MakerBay to join these efforts. Join us at the zika hackathon on the 16th February at MakerBay in Yau Tong (see their event page here). We’ll be linking up with the global google hangout with other zika hackathon participants in Brazil, Australia, Singapore, and beyond. Then discussing and pitching projects where we can contribute from here in Hong Kong. From both of our data hacking and hardware hacking perspectives, and where these different stands of “open” can be combined to produce crowdsourced data collection tools and apps to see if citizens can do better than the supposed experts in filling in these data gaps.

Singapore 1: HK 0 for data driven approachesThe “Asian tiger mosquito” Aedes Albopictus, which is among 60 types of mosquito that can carry the virus if it bites an infected person, is endemic to Hong Kong. The warmer year-round weather and more extreme rainfall patterns we are currently seeing will make the city even more favourable for mosquitoes from the Aedes genus, sparking warnings from local health officials to eliminate breeding areas. On top of the threats of zika, we already have sporadic dengue outbreaks from these vectors, and the Hong Kong government currently has an Oviposition Trap (Ovitrap) screening program to detect the presence of adult mosquitoes. With only 52 locations across Hong Kong selected for the vector surveillance, and the mosquitoes having a roughly 200m range, more than 98% of Hong Kong is currently not covered and there is a need for much more data collection and presentation (the FEHD presenting not very helpful PDFs). Contrasting this with the more dynamic data driven approaches of dengue reporting Singapore uses, Kaggle competitions for West Nile Virus modelling, and Spanish efforts at crowdsourcing tiger mosquito spotting (with no Hong Kong data collected to date) show a few approaches we could follow here.

Are you interested in getting involved and use your creativity to develop innovative technologies and contribute to understand and prevent zika from spreading? Let’s meet up! The event will be co-hosted by Scott from ODHK and Ajoy, Jacky and Nicolas from MakerBay, and efforts will be longitudinal following the ongoing international hackathon efforts. For more see:

Date:
Tuesday, February 16th 2016, 6:00pm
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Location:
Location: MakerBay, 16 Sze Shan Street, C1 Yau Tong Industrial Building Block 2, Yau Tong, Kowloon
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UPDATE 23/2/16: MakerBay have a write-up of this event now posted, and you can see the archived livestream below. Thanks to everyone who attended, and keep following to see how the pitched projects develop.