This Software Engineer Created New NSW Vaccines Website In 48 Hours


Image: covid19nearme.com.au/
  • A software engineer in Sydney has developed a site that aggregates information from several New South Wales government websites to help people make reservations more easily for vaccinations.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, individuals have been developing tools to make government COVID-19 data more accessible.
  • “If there are gaps, or if the government doesn’t do a good enough job, people will step in and report it,” said Anthony Macali, creator of the Covidlive site.
  • Visit the Business Insider Australia homepage for more stories.

Early Sunday morning, Fraser Hemphill posted on the Reddit r / Australia bulletin board; “I had a hard time booking a vaccine, so I created a site that DINGS where there are vaccines available (Sydney).”

Below, he posted a link to his site, covidqueue.com.

Within hours, the post had climbed to the top of the page and drew comments from frustrated Sydneysiders who were struggling to make an appointment for the vaccination through the government site.

“Dude, I just got the shot because of your website. Incredible, ”posted one user.

“All the resources of the state and federal government… the people who manage billion dollar projects…

Hemphill, a Sydney-based software engineer, said he created the site to help a friend who works as a nurse and who was eligible for the Pfizer vaccine find an available appointment.

“She showed me how she continually recharges four different governments. sites hoping for an available time slot, ”Hemphill told Business Insider Australia via email.

“I knew I could automate this and help her find one more easily, so I put together a script and she was able to find a reservation immediately,” he said.

Hemphill then realized he could help other healthcare workers in the same boat and built the site last week.

While the New South Wales vaccination program has accelerated since the last outbreak, only 27% of workers with disabilities and 28% of older social workers in Australia are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

The site checks the availability of reservations through four different government sites and alerts the user when slots at vaccination centers become available, as well as when there are two reservations available three weeks apart.

It also links to official NSW government websites that verify eligibility, leading users to book their vaccine appointments.

Hemphill said the reviews on his site have been positive; “He was then sent to the hospital and really grew from there.”

Since the start of the pandemic, governments at the federal and state levels have come under fire for failing to provide both accessible data and effective technology to citizens. Projects like the $ 10 million CovidSafe app have not yielded results and NSW’s current site for booking vaccinations has come under criticism for being slow, clunky registration process and information contradictory between the site and that of the health care providers.

This is a factor that has led many people to step in and create platforms that seek to fill these knowledge gaps, with some now providing information and data to government agencies and the media, including the ABC.

“I decided to build it myself”

Ken tsang, a 24-year-old developer from Sydney created the data mapping site Covid19 nearby during the Northern Beaches outbreak last year, when he wanted a better visualization of viral infection hot spots than the charts released by the NSW government.

“It was about a work week to start,” Tsang told Business Insider Australia.

Tsang said that at the time, the state government “published these massive lists of exhibits” which were difficult to understand geographically.

“I was like if I was struggling, a lot of other people were struggling too,” he said.

At the time, the NSW government offered public access to the data feeds, he explained, which made it easy for him to retrieve the data and use it for his site.

Anthony Macali, a trade report manager, felt much the same.

He told Business Insider Australia that when the country was first locked down, he expected to be able to access current information on the number of cases, but the Federal Health website was updating its dashboard. once or twice a day.

“I thought it wasn’t good enough,” he said.

“Each state and territory pretty much ran its own thing and there was nowhere you could put it all together.

“And so maybe in the frustration and lack of any further report I decided to build it myself,” he said. “And it just took off.”

He runs the site Covidlive over the past 16 months, which feeds near real-time government COVID-19 data onto a single web page.

Macali said that around March of this year, when there were few cases, the site was receiving around 30,000 unique visitors per day. Now he sees nearly 100,000.

“People will step in and report it”

Macali believes people have flocked to his site and others like it because having access to clear and specific information makes people feel in control, even though they have no power over the situation. in which they are located.

“Probably the most important feedback I received while doing all the work was that no matter how serious the numbers were, the fact that I was constantly reporting it gave people a sense of control,” he said. -he declares.

Macali said his site also had an impact on government reporting.

He said that from July of last year there was “a big push for postcode data”, which was not used when reporting cases in Victoria at the time, but was ‘he urged them to provide.

“I think the first day the postcode data was available on the site, I had 300,000 visitors that day,” he said.

Tsang said that while the level of detail of COVID-19 data the government makes public is high, it is still difficult to access on state and federal government websites.

It processes government data, which is always published in PDF format, with a scraping tool that transfers the files to a spreadsheet.

“I made this information accessible to everyone… and now sites like ABC and SBS take information from the feed that I publish and use it because there is no better feed to do it and the government does not provide them, ”Tsang said. .

Macali said he has seen access to detailed, publicly available information on the pandemic become more accessible as it continues – with a spike in engagement in cases where the data paves the way for the pandemic. reopening.

“It was definitely part of the second wave roadmap in Victoria.

“And now with the vaccination targets in NSW or trying to reduce the number of communities,” he said.

Hemphill said sites like his are the result of the bureaucracy’s inability to create effective technology under time constraints.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we ended up with multiple systems to reserve a vaccine for each hub,” he said. “However, I understand the time pressure of the situation when it was developed”,

He said that for him it was a sense of civic responsibility to fill in the gaps.

“I have received several emails and messages from people at risk who have been desperately trying to book for weeks and who have found that with CovidQueue they can book in minutes,” he said.

Macali said, especially in unprecedented situations, it’s empowering to know he can develop tools that will connect people to information that isn’t readily available.

“If there are gaps, or if the government doesn’t do a good enough job, people will step in and point it out.”