OpenAQ’s Response to COVID-19

How the needs of the international air quality community are changing due to COVID-19 and how we’re responding.

Over the past few months, the world and its needs have changed dramatically. And the need for real-time data harmonized from disparate sources has never been more pronounced. Countries around the world depend upon COVID-19 projections created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and other groups to make life-and-death decisions on COVID-19 policy. Meanwhile, the ability to produce such forecasts rely upon the timely availability of tons of disparately-shared public health data put out by hospitals, local government agencies, and many other sources.

In the international air quality community, COVID-19 has also created an acute, increased demand for open data on three fronts:

Increased Demand for Open Air Quality Data

At OpenAQ, we have seen an increase in demand for real-time, global air quality data in the last couple of months — a time when we usually expect a decrease in usage as the Northern Hemisphere pollution season ends. As of the time of this posting, we project a 40% increase in data requests to the OpenAQ API during May as compared to February 2020.

As of the time of this posting, we project a 40% increase in data requests to the OpenAQ API this May, compared to February 2020.

What COVID-19 & Air Quality Work is the Community Doing?

The OpenAQ Community has accessed data from the OpenAQ Platform for several impactful use-cases related to COVID-19. They include:

These sorts of works maximize the silver lining that we collectively can extract in this unprecedented and otherwise difficult moment. And they are only possible if data are made accessible in a timely, harmonized, and programmatic fashion.

What is OpenAQ doing to respond to COVID-19?

Adding more data sources in key geographies. A lot of the work that we already have planned for the rest of 2020 remains the same — but we want to do it faster. In particular, we feel an urgency around getting new data sources in the platform as soon as possible. Air quality data for locations that are not already ingested into the OpenAQ system may be difficult to recover and are lost for practical access by a broad portion of the community. We need to get them in as soon as possible.

Key geographies we want to ingest data from — and for which we believe there are available open data sources that meet OpenAQ data and meta data requirements include:

Rolling out new tools. This has already been part of the 2020 plan, made possible from funding from ClimateWorks, the Clean Air Fund, and the Environmental Defense Fund, but we see an increased need for such tools for more groups to do fast analysis. Such tools include:

Creating community space for COVID-19 and air quality conversations. We are re-shaping Community Series events for the remainder of 2020 to build in COVID-19 response efforts by the international air quality community.

How Can You Help?

OpenAQ has always relied on its community for impact, and we know the community wants to help one another do more with open air quality data at this time more than ever. Here’s how you can help:

Lastly, we hope this finds you and your families safe and healthy as possible during this time.

Interested in learning more? Email or join the OpenAQ Community Slack Channel!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

We host real-time air quality data on a free and open data platform because people do amazing things with it. Find us at