Using big data to manage COVID-19 in Rwanda

Hannah Diorio-Toth

Feb 24, 2022

Patrick McSharry, visiting professor at CMU-Africa, is collaborating with the Government of Rwanda to analyze the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda and make predictions about how the disease may impact the country in the future.

With funding from the Mastercard Foundation, McSharry and colleagues created a dashboard that normalizes, transforms, and graphically displays publicly-available data so that trends can be observed about the behavior of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda and other countries in Africa. The dashboard includes data on COVID-19 cases, deaths, and the vaccine rollout. The dashboard can be used to help understand past data and also provide a forecast of the future.

Screen shot of menu in dashboard

Source: Patrick McSharry

The dashboard normalizes, transforms, and graphically displays publicly-available data so that trends can be observed.

“This project is a great example of data being used to empower individuals like us, and also to support governments and organizations in making informed policy decisions,” says McSharry. “By aggregating, normalizing, and visualizing data, we can more accurately predict the future behavior of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The predictive element of the dashboard is driven by a statistical evaluation of competing forecasting methods. These methods are driven by epidemiological models often used to evaluate infectious diseases, such as the Susceptible-Exposed-Infected-Recovered-Dead (SEIRD) model, time series analysis, and machine learning approaches. A rigorous back-testing approach is used to select the optimal method for forecasting. 

The COVID-19 dashboard is currently being beta tested at CMU-Africa, with the goal of it becoming a public tool that can be scaled to analyze data from across the continent to help manage the spread of the pandemic in Africa.

Screenshot of dashboard

Source: Patrick McSharry

Example of COVID-19 data visualized in McSharry's dashboard

McSharry is an advisor of the World Bank funded African Centre of Excellence in Data Science in Rwanda and a member of the Kigali Collaborative Research Centre. He specializes in predictive analytics, with a research goal to enable people to make better and faster decisions, and to make those decisions more accurately. McSharry’s research sits at the intersection of big data and policy, with projects that impact a number of areas, including public health, agriculture, finance, and the economy.