The Importance of Self-Reporting during COVID-19

Testing is a critical component through the fight of COVID-19 to become aware of cases, identify hotspots, and begin opening up economies. Bill Gates mentions, “It is impossible to defeat an enemy that we cannot see,” recognizing the fact that observers must use data to gain insights on the next steps.

Flatten is an organization providing real-time data by incorporating the use of crowdsourcing to enable heat maps that locate potential and/or vulnerable cases. Flatten enables users to anonymously self-report symptoms of COVID-19 in view of a progression of screening questions created in discussion with health officials. This use of data can help the public become aware of these cases, inform the healthcare systems based on geographical locations, and potentially display hotspots within Canada.

Figure 1. Homepage of

It is important to take note that there is a lot of trust put into people in that they will accurately describe their symptoms. There can be risks of data being biased due to purposely inputted false material that can further provide misleading information. However, this type of data collection is still imperative to conduct despite the associated risks.

The COVID-19 pandemic is placing a detriment on healthcare systems worldwide due to the increasing demands. For nations with the inability to widely test individuals adequately, self-reporting is an option that will provide data urgently in helping to understand socio-economic and demographic information about households. In Mogadishu, Somalia, volunteers are using Flatten’s tool to collect information electronically which can also be done offline without the use of the internet.

Although testing is a fundamental goal, self-reporting is a step towards helping the public understand the risks associated with the virus. It alleviates healthcare systems in dealing with potential patients that are experiencing low/mild symptoms. Hence, hospitals will not be overwhelmed and strain on phone lines can be relieved. This crowdsourcing of information allows for a faster process as data is gathered directly from individuals where it can then be used to help implement changes in efforts to mitigate the virus.

Author: Sejal Jain is a self-reporting platform that tracks the spread of COVID-19. Join the movement! Data saves lives.