Understanding COVID-19 Across the Globe

July - October 2020 Data Visualization Challenge


Submit Your Entry!

About the Data Visualization Challenge

Data visualization is a powerful and dynamic way to bring attention to prominent issues all over the world.

Additionally, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected different countries in different ways. You don’t need to be an expert in medicine or international development to understand that several different factors go into the pandemic’s effectiveness and influence including areas like race/ethnicity, poverty, and healthcare.

These factors are different in every country so with this data challenge we hope to visualize and bring attention to the pandemic’s influence across the globe.

To truly show the diversity and variety in the pandemic’s impact, we’ve split our theme of COVID-19’s global impact into two separate topics individuals can pick from.

The first topic concerns food insecurity within specific countries and the second draws comparisons between the pandemic’s economic impact on different countries.

Submissions are open from July 16th to October 23rd. 

Meet The Team

Data Visualization Challenge Rules

  1. This data visualization challenge is open to any student at the Undergraduate, Graduate, or Post Grad Level. It is also open to any professional or professional team working for any company, but primarily data centric or data focused companies.
  2. Undergraduate and Graduate level students will submit on the student track with their school email.
  3. Professionals and PhD or higher level students will submit on the professional track, professionals with any email and PhD Students preferably with their university email
  4. You must choose some part of either of the two topics detailed on the challenge information page. This can be any aspect of either of these topics as it relates to any of the countries listed beneath each topic respectively.
  5. All submissions are welcome. We are working to make sure our submission platform is capable of displaying any type of visualization. The default embedding functionality will be HTML iframes, for those who do have experience in this, if you want to create your own embed code, please feel free. Otherwise, if your visualization is not fitting properly, we will work with you to try and embed it properly. We want everyone’s work to be displayed clearly and in the correct proportions!
  6. This is a data analysis, visualization and storytelling challenge, so please make sure your submissions fit into this criterion.


Professional Winners in Each Topic

1st Place: $1000

2nd Place: $500

3rd Place: $250

Student Winners in Each Topic

1st Place: $350

2nd Place: $100

3rd Place: $50

The Data

Several data sets will be made available for use on your data visualizations that cover the countries listed within the topics below. View the data in detail here.

Data Visualization Topics

Data Visualization Topic 1: Food Insecurity

data visualization


Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. 

As many countries continue to take measures to stop the spread of COVID 19, border restrictions in addition to changes in labor supply due to limited migratory labor opportunities, in-country movement restrictions and social distancing are likely to impact global food security. 

These changes are expected to have greater impact in countries with existing humanitarian crises and shocks such as conflict, locusts plague, inflation, and extreme weather events (e.g. flooding).

For this data visualization challenge we would like you to explore how COVID – 19 and other shocks and stresses impact food security around the world.

Country List

Please select one of the following countries to serve as the context for your submission: 

  1. Senegal 
  2. Ethiopia 
  3. Honduras 
  4. Somalia 
  5. Egypt 
  6. Lebanon 
  7. Nigeria 
  8. Uganda 

Data Visualization Questions to Consider

  1. How has COVID – 19 or other shocks and stresses (e.g. locusts plague, inflation, conflict, extreme weather) impacted the supply of widely consumed staples (e.g. rice, wheat, maize)? How have prices of these food commodities changed (if at all)? 
  2. What has been the impact for these shocks in low income countries such as Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Uganda?
  3. Are the shocks impacting the poor and more vulnerable (e.g. women) differently?
  4. What household characteristics affect resilience to major shocks such as COVID-19, conflict, extreme weather and how have these varied over time?
  5. What are the best approaches to building and sustaining household and community resilience to withstand shocks?
  6. How has the economic impact of COVID-19 affected current food security? How is it likely to affect food security in the future?

Data Visualization Topic 2: Comparing COVID-19 Economic Impacts

data visualization


In the broader context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the world has seen a range of impacts. Countries like South Korea were able to contain and prevent the disease from having the widespread and massive growth seen in countries like China and the United States.

On top of the variety of different effects of this disease, the timing of the peak infection rates and number of people contracting the disease has varied wildly. As the United States has started to find stability in the spread, countries like Brazil and India are seeing the worst of these effects within their populations.

The fluctuation and variation in the timing and impact of this disease has caused sporadic and unpredictable shocks to economies around the world. Countries are opening and closing travel, changing rules for conducting business, and constantly varying the activities that can and cannot be conducted during this time. 

One of the most prevalent topics we are seeing around the world right now is job loss, and how countries are going to recover. A big part of this comparative topic, that we would like to focus on within the context of the varying impacts of COVID-19, is the varying effects on the respective economies.

Country List

These countries cover nearly a third of the world’s population and have seen or are currently seeing a range of different impacts of COVID-19.

  1. Indian Subcontinent:
    • India
    • Sri Lanka
    • Bangladesh
    • Pakistan
  2. Brazil
  3. Egypt
  4. Indonesia

Data Visualization Questions to Consider

  1. The focus of this data visualization topic is comparison, why are some countries experiencing this pandemic so differently than others?
  2. Have the responses to the pandemic been different between or within these five countries? How? What were the results of these responses?
  3. Jobs are being lost worldwide at an unprecedented rate, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic is not the same throughout each of these countries, what are the differences in these economic shocks? What responses have been and are being made to help mitigate this issue? Have they worked?
  4. What cultural, socio-economic, and topographic characteristics could be playing a role in the COVID-19 pandemic? What role are they playing? How do you know?
  5. Has COVID-19 impacted different groups of people (women, impoverished, minorities, etc.) in different ways? What are the differences, and are they present within some countries or between countries?

How to Participate with Limited Connection

If you are in an area where internet connection is usually not easily available to you, we have done our best to create a method to participate in the challenge almost entirely offline.

After conversations with a few professors in areas where this is a common problem, we realized it was essential that we offer a method for all of the students and professionals in these areas to be a part of this challenge.

As long as you are able to temporarily connect to the internet to download the materials and then to upload your submission, everything else can be done offline. This will rely heavily on R and Python because they are both free, open-source languages, but the downloadable folder includes scripts in both R and Python, the data needed for the scripts (and a lot of other data related to the challenge), and videos that provide a walk through of some aspect of an analysis or one of the scripts.

The following zip folder includes …

  •  This entire webpage description of the challenge for your reference in .docx and .txt format
  • Instructions for how to download and set up everything, how to ask questions or make requests, and multiple ways to submit your project for the challenge, also in .docx and .txt format
  • A subfolder with all of the tutorial materials; a description, a tutorial videos folder, a tutorial data folder, and a tutorial scripts folder.
  • A subfolder with a range of data that has been collected for this challenge

IMPORTANT: You are not limited to the data in the initial download folder, and the instructions will tell you how to request other data from the CGDV team, or you are free to download any other data on your own (as long as it is cited)

  • Brief instructions on how to download Python and R/R-Studio and how to work in the same environments that the tutorial scripts work in

That is all the folder contains for now, we are going to continue to add to it, but wanted to get an initial version posted for people to work with. However, we also realize that it is impossible for us to have thought of everything, so please give us feedback, make requests, and help us make this challenge as accessible as it can possibly be to anyone from 

around the globe!

Download Offline Challenge ZipFolder (Last Updated: 09/08/2020)

Data Visualization Criteria and Judges

Data Visualization Criteria

The goal of data visualization and presentation is to present results and insights from an analysis in a clear, honest, and effective way. A visualization, application, website, etc. that is communicating the results of data analysis should be interpretable by all target audiences, including those without an analytic background. It should have a well-defined goal and meet that goal in an impactful and memorable way. Many of us know the potential of data, but without clear, meaningful, and understandable presentation, that potential is wasted.

“There is a magic in graphs. The profile of a curve reveals in a flash a whole situation — the life history of an epidemic, a panic, or an era of prosperity. The curve informs the mind, awakens the imagination, convinces.”
Henry D. Hubbard (Creator of the “Chart of Atoms”, later becoming “The Periodic Table of Elements”)

“In school we learn a lot about language and math. On the language side we learn how to put words together into sentences and stories. With math, we learn to make sense of numbers. But it’s rare that these two sides are paired. No one tells us how to tell stories with numbers … this leaves us poorly prepared for an important task that is increasingly in demand.”
Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic (Author of the “Storytelling with Data” series, two of the most popular guidebooks to data visualization in the world)

“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.”
John Tukey (World-Renowned Statistician, Introduced the Fast Fourier Transform)

With these ideas in mind, the criteria guiding this challenge will first ensure a valid analysis but will be evaluated based on the value of your insights, coupled with the impact that your presentation of those insights has on those who review it.

Analysis and Data Visualization Accuracy/Transparency

Criteria Topic

  • How valid the interpretations of the analysis are based on the type and quality of the data and analysis used
  • How appropriate the visualizations are to display their information in regards to clarity and transparency (e.g. there is no attempt to mislead a viewer with modified scales, broken axes, targeted data selection, etc.)

Guiding Questions

  • Is the analysis methodology clear and understandable?
  • Does the analysis methodology make sense, given the data and topic? Is it appropriate?
  • Are the results of the analysis accurate?
  • Are the visualizations used honest and appropriate? Are they misleading? Do they make sense for the findings being communicated?

Findings and Insights

Criteria Topic

  • How useful the visualization is in helping to inform/solve the chosen topic or problem, or in identification of a novel perspective on the topic

Guiding Questions

  • How relevant are the findings to the topic issue, if at all?
  • Are the ideas original or do they offer a new perspective?
  • Could these insights be valuable or helpful within the context of this issue?

Design and Storytelling/Narrative​

Criteria Topic

  • How creatively and uniquely the problem is visualized by the team, as well as its overall aesthetic appeal
  • How effectively and clearly the visualization communicates the team’s insight/message to the audience

Guiding Questions

  • Is the physical layout and design of the project easily interpretable? Does it align with the findings of the analysis?
  • Is the design and layout of the project appealing? Are the colors, shapes, and other identifiers appealing, without taking the attention away from the insights being communicated?
  • Does the project or presentation tell a cohesive story or narrative? Can you clearly understand how the author made his conclusions?
  • Is the story interesting and impactful? Did it resonate with you? Do you feel the way the author intended you to feel?
  • If you were asked what this project told you tomorrow morning, would you remember? Could you then relay that message to others?
  • If it didn’t resonate with you, could it have an impact on another group of people? Who?


Phase 2

Elaine Johanson

Director, Office of Health Informatics (Acting), FDA

Jeff Colyer

Former Governor of Kansas

Tom Woteki

Director, Data Analytics and Applied Statistics Master’s Program, Virginia Tech

Farzana Ramzan

Social Scientist, Analytics & Learning Division of USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security

Kerry Bruce

Chief Executive Officer,Clear Outcomes

Barry Chaiken

Clinical Lead at Tableau Software

Gordon Weynand

Managing Director, of Planning, Performance, & Systems,
U.S. Department of the State

Phase 1

Mindy Hernandez

Founder and Director, Design for Humans

Purna Gamage

Assistant Teaching Professor, Data Science and Analytics at Georgetown University

Yuriy Gusev

Associate Professor of Bioinformatics at Innovation Center for Biomedical Informatics at the Georgetown University

Ami Gates

Director and Professor, Data Science and Analytics, Georgetown University, DC

Erica Holzaepfel

Senior Director of Programs at The QED Group

Hooman Hidaji

Assistant Professor at Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary

Arpan Kar

Associate Professor;
Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi

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