Stories From the Trenches: Deploying a Global Pandemic Tracking System in 48 Hours

Government 2.0
Location: 1A24 Level:

In Spring 2009, leading bioresearch firm Recombinomics tried to track he spread of swine flu with a simple online map – but it just couldn’t keep up with the virus’ spread. Seeing an opportunity to live out its social mission, community technology laboratory lent its expertise to Recombinomics pro bono to create FluTracker, a free web mapping platform for tracking outbreaks of swine flu.

FluTracker is powered by user contributions vetted by a team of researchers and volunteers. FluTracker’s value is its information (which is provided for free as a map, a CSV file, and RSS and KML feeds), but Rhiza deliberately designed these tools to enable non-experts to create useful structured data. A simple web-based form allows users around the world to submit cases of swine flu (over 6,000 so far) documented by news and government reports, which Recombinomics’ team reviews, and Rhiza publishes to a dynamic map and data feed.

This process, filtered crowdsourcing, combines the omnipresence of crowds with the scientific expertise of professionals to create a more complete and accurate resource than either group could create independently. The result: major media news outlets have recognized FluTracker as documenting the spread of flu 5-6 days ahead of the Centers for Disease Control, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies across the Americas have turned to FluTracker to support policy, continuity and preparedness decisions, and private citizens are using FluTracker to get the latest updates on the spread of swine flu in their areas.

Join Rhiza Labs to learn how to implement fast, flexible crowdsourcing technology that can scale to unexpected amounts of traffic, allow non-experts to access, input, analyze, and download data, ensure data accuracy, and adapt rapidly to evolving challenges. Learn how the principle of human-centered design – computing that adapts to human cognition, and not vice-versa – shaped the tools that have enabled FluTracker to become an acknowledged and comprehensive resource. Leave with a roadmap for designing your own system that empowers users to create and visualize data while ensuring its accuracy, thereby creating a portal of truly broad use.

Photo of Allan Holmes

Allan Holmes

Allan Holmes is Executive Editor at Government Executive, joining Executive Editors Tom Shoop and Anne Laurent in the senior management of the enterprise. Holmes has been CIO’s Washington Bureau Chief since 2004.
He was editor in chief of Federal Computer Week magazine and from January 2001 to August 2003, and FCW editor and managing editor prior to that. He developed, launched and managed the award-winning daily news site, During his nearly nine years at FCW, the magazine and web site won more than three dozen awards, including Folio Magazine’s Best Government Publication and first-place awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors for Best Government Coverage and Best Overall Web Publication.
Holmes also served as editorial director for events and new projects at FCW Media Group. This included running FCW’s Government CIO Summit, and managing research projects that measure the effectiveness of government management reforms, governance issues, the interaction between electronic government and the public, and other topics. In an earlier project, he oversaw an expansive joint study with the Pew Internet and American Life Project on the federal government’s increasing use of the Internet to sell goods and services to the public. Holmes has covered health care, business issues and state government, and has written for The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and Government Executive. He has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University.

Josh Knauer

Rhiza Labs

Josh has been a social entrepreneur for the past 20 years, creating and leading successful organizations in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. His ability to spot emerging trends in technology and how they can be used for the betterment of society and the environment have caused him to be considered a leading expert in the field. He’s been featured in Time, Fortune, Newsweek and Wired magazines, and was even named a New Media Hero by the Utne Reader.

Prior to Rhiza Labs, Josh lead MAYA Design’s Information Commons project. Before that, he founded and served as Executive Director of the EnviroLink Network, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping organizations adopt emerging technologies. Josh also founded and served as CEO of Green Marketplace, a clearing-house for socially and environmentally responsible products, services and information, which he sold to Gaiam in 2002.

Involvement in the community is very important to Josh. He has served on the boards of directors of the Regional Development Funding Corporation, the Organic Trade Association’s Fiber Council, the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club, Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh and he is currently on the board of directors of the Institute for Global Communications, the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, the EnviroLink Network and Rhiza Labs. Josh is also an active member of the Social Venture Network.

Josh lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, children and dog. When not starting up a new business, he can be found in his garden tending organic and heirloom vegetables or out hiking in the woods.

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Awareness
  • Blue Kiwi Software
  • Ericsson Labs
  • Jive Software
  • Layered Technologies, Inc.
  • Neustar, Inc.
  • OpenText
  • Opera Software
  • Overtone
  • Qtask
  • Rackspace Hosting
  • Sony Ericsson

Sponsor & Exhibitor Opportunities

Rob Koziura
(415) 947-6111

Download the Web 2.0 Expo New York Sponsor/Exhibitor Prospectus

Media Partner Opportunities

Kaitlin Pike
(415) 947-6306

Contact Us

View a complete list of Web 2.0 Expo contacts.