Stay on track.
Amid widespread panic about Covid-19, developer Ramida “Jennie” Juengpaisal and her team at Bangkok-based IT company 5Lab decided to create a news source that people could rely on. Their hit interactive Covid Tracker offers up-to-date, location-based updates from the Ministry of Health on the number and details of cases, as well as documenting sanitation operations across Thailand and exposing false reports in order to quell the spread of rumors. We spoke to Jennie about the project.
What sparked the idea to create this site?
Over the past two weeks, rumors about the current Covid-19 situation have kept spreading on social media without any proof or proper media coverage. So, we came up with this idea to make a website that gathers news about the virus situation. That was the beginning of “Covid Tracker.” Originally, we intended it just for personal use but then it became viral within just a few hours of launching.
How is the Covid Tracker helping people to prevent the spread of the virus?
Social media plays a significant role in spreading fake news but some people are clueless about this. Covid Tracker is helping to provide solid information about the current virus situation—about places that should be avoided, places of quarantine, sterilized locations and places that are under inspection. We believe that too much panic causes difficulty in our lives, so we hope to lessen panic among people.
How many visitors have you received so far?
We gained four million unique users within five days of launching. This was way beyond our expectations. Currently, daily active users stand at around 5,000 users per minute. In the peak period, we saw up to 50,000 active users per minute.
Did you expect it to be such a—no pun intended—viral hit?
5Lab is a digital design and developer company. We create and design websites and applications. The Covid Tracker started with a simple idea to visualize the information from the Ministry of Health and make it easy to understand—and it was a hackathon that was done in one night.
What do you think about Thailand's response to the virus so far? Are we doing enough, too much, not enough?
There are both people who are aware and others who are not. Those who are overwhelmed by feelings of panic are influenced by inaccurate information that has made them feel insecure about the situation. When it comes to the public sector, the response process is slow because they need to gather all of the information. This results in a lack of progression, which causes confusion and panic. Plus, the information they provide isn’t visual enough to understand easily.
Do you think we are panicking too much?
Self-awareness is good but panicking is unnecessary and will negatively affect our lives.
Compared to other countries in the fight against fake news, how do you think Thailand stacks up?
I think none of the countries have been able to handle it very well. As I mentioned before, social media now plays a significant role in spreading news quickly and easily. People often believe everything without checking the truth—sometimes they don’t even know where the news came from. So it depends on your judgement as well. Even Covid Tracker was attacked by some people saying that we’re scammers. Fake news is everywhere.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
Our current goal is to make Covid Tracker more effective in order to provide precise and accurate information to all users. Currently Covid Tracker supports four languages (Thai, English, Japanese, Mandarin). However, there are a lot of private and public sectors that are willing to collaborate with us. Stay tuned!
Do you think your success with the Covid Tracker will propel you all forward in business now?
Our company remained low-key for a while, but the Covid Tracker has helped with PR and strengthened our credibility. We will be handling more upcoming projects, which is good, especially in this period of economic stagnation.