Technology and the Coronvirus

How can one use technology to learn more about the coronavirus and its effect on society?

This first example is based on a blogpost on Marginal Revolution:

There’s – let’s assume – 3 million people in Pune city. Let’s assume that you work in a firm that has a 1000 employees. Let’s assume that 500 people in your city have the corona virus.

Then the math says that all other things equal, there is a 15% chance that one of those 1000 employees is infected with the corona virus. Click on the link and play with the numbers to generate different scenarios.

Ah, you say, but Pune has only 16 cases so far, so there’s no need to worry.

And I agree with you, so long as we get the social distancing right. The more the virus spreads, the likelier it is that it will spread. And the more people will get it, the more people will transmit it – remember, R0 is at least 2.

Put another way, social distancing is to ensure that we don’t reach 500, let alone a higher number.

By the way, if you change 500 to 5000, the probability that a person in a 1000 employee firm has the virus shoots to 81%.

Social distancing matters.



Kartik Shashidhar, a guy you should follow on Twitter, came up with this app yesterday:


For the scenario outlined above, it takes about 10 days for 100% of the population to get infected with the virus, assuming the average connections per individual are 20.

If the connections per individual are 10, you get about 8 more days. Play around with the numbers, again, to generate different scenarios.

Here’s the original Twitter thread:

You can read more about small world networks here.



This is a great chart, and it comes from a great website. Thank you to Anish Parulekar for sharing the link.

Click through to the site to take a look at a whole host of other neat visualizations – in particular, take a look at how the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) varies by country.

Now, this particular chart is interesting because it helps you understand how to think about COVID-19. The best of all worlds is the origin, of course, where the R0 and the CFR are both zero.

Chicken pox is irritating, because it spreads quickly. But the good news is it is essentially never going to kill anybody. Bird flu is dangerous, because it kills a lot of people. But the good news is that it doesn’t spread to a whole lot of people.

Diseases that kill a lot of peopleĀ and spread quickly, those are really problematic. That’s why smallpox, polio and SARS are (were) so problematic. And the Spanish flu, that roamed the whole world over, was one such disease. I hope to post a book review this Thursday about it.

COVID-19 is worse than the Spanish flu.


I’d rather not excerpt from this superb visualization – and accompanying article – from the Washington Post. Also, WaPo, thank you for not putting this behind a paywall!

Side note: Harry Stevens does data visualizations better than most folks.


And finally, a shout out to MRU for all of these resources.


Tomorrow, I’ll try and share with you stories from Spain, Italy, France, Iran, South Korea and China about how they fought, and are fighting, with the virus. Any links you can send my way are most appreciated! My email address is ashish at econforeverybody dot com.

Thank you for reading: stay safe!