WWARN makes online mapping software open source

6 October 2017

The WWARN Informatics team has made the source code behind their online tools, such as online mapping software, freely available. Find out how you can use it. 

Open source software has revolutionised the development of online tools, and levelled the playing field for small groups developing software to suit their needs. Open source software has many benefits for the development of web applications—cost, flexibility, freedom, security, and accountability. It is created and supported by a global community of individual developers and organisations, many of whom also live by open source values such as collaboration.

In the spirit of collaboration and sharing, the WWARN Informatics team have made the framework behind their online mapping tools freely available. The interactive application called ‘WWARN Maps Surveyor’ is a mapping platform for visualising occurrence data[1] to support statistical reporting, public health surveillance, and health research.

WWARN currently uses the software to communicate geospatial and temporal information about the prevalence of molecular markers of antimalarial drug resistance, reports on medicine quality in a country, pharmaceutical crime laws, the aetiology of non-malarial febrile illness across continents, and has several more projects in the pipeline.

However, the use of this tool framework goes beyond geo-visualisation of research data. The platform can, for instance, facilitate functions such as decision support, statistical mapping, crime surveillance and potentially, live mapping humanitarian crisis information. The tool can even be used offline in areas with little or no levels of Internet connectivity.

This software is a great foundation for anyone wanting to display any type of occurrence data over time and space, with faceted search and browsing” says Nigel Thomas, WWARN Senior Software Architect. “We want the developer community to build on and improve what we’ve developed for their own purposes and improve surveillance mapping technologies use across a variety of fields, not just for resistance mapping.”

As local developer communities grow in lower-income countries and focus shifts to global health issues, online open source systems such as the Surveyor framework are providing far-reaching and innovative tools to support increased efficiency, productivity and performance of global health geo visualisation and surveillance needs. These new innovations can be shared with others and built upon, updated and tailored from project to project and from country to country.

When it comes to global health, the open source emphasis on collaboration, local capacity building and system strengthening is helping research teams and local communities across the world,” says Dr Chris Paton, Head of the Global Health Informatics Group, University of Oxford. “Making the framework for the WWARN Maps Surveyor tool freely available will allow developers to design their own visualisations around occurrence data more efficiently and cost effectively – this source-code has great potential for a wide range of fields.”

The team are planning to make further source data available in the future such as hybrid encryption software, dictionary mapping software and continue to update the Surveyor framework.

The source code can be found freely available on GitHub. The team have also set-up a google web forum at Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network Open Source Software. If you’d like to find out more about the Surveyor tools or would like to collaborate on a project, please get in touch: info [at] wwarn [dot] org

1 Occurrence data simply record an observation of a disease at a given location and time, Hay, S.I. et al., 2013. Global mapping of infectious disease. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.Series B, Biological Sciences, 368(1614), p.20120250. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0250.