Coronavirus by the Numbers: How Data Storytelling Helps Us Understand More than Business Data
By: Dan Platt
The Coronavirus is making an impact felt around the world. Thousands have died and experts believe we will only see more cases in the days and weeks to come.
Even though we can read articles or news reports about the virus, it can be scary not to understand the breadth of what is going on in our communities and around the world. While we are still getting more information about how the virus spreads and how a vaccine can be developed, there is already plenty of data out there on the impact of the Coronavirus.
For example, I found several links in this Fast Company post to datasets and visualizations about the Coronavirus. There is a live map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, a StoryMap from ESRI and data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
While there is an abundance of information and raw data on the Coronavirus, getting what we need to know from these datasets requires a skillset and comfort with data that not everyone has.
At Narrative Science we believe data should be accessible to everyone.
This virus has already impacted or will impact people from all education levels across the globe. To be certain, it will not discriminate based on data literacy. This means everyone should have the ability to understand how it’s impacting the world.
For example, these are visualizations from the KFF COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker:
There is really valuable information here. These visualizations are showing the number of cases and deaths by day.
The first one is very hard to decipher because of the large number of cases in China. However, even in the chart with China removed, it is tough to see what’s going on. For me, the large number of countries and colors makes it hard to find even the most basic information like which country is seeing the largest increase in cases.
Humans were not meant to communicate vital information using charts and graphs. There shouldn’t be an extra step of visual interpretation to get insight about life and death.
We communicate through language, and therefore we should display data in a way that people understand.
That’s why we took some of this data and published a PowerBI Report that combines visualizations with plain-English stories that anyone can read and understand, regardless of your comfort with data analysis and visualization.
There are tabs for the number of new cases by day and country, the total number of deaths by country and the total number of deaths by day.
We did this through Data Storytelling and our product Quill.
The data I pulled for this Data Storytelling example came from the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker.