Two alumni from the University of Cape Town (UCT) have created an app that will provide South Africans with reliable and accurate information on the coronavirus outbreak.
Called Coronapp, it aims to be a centralised online platform with updated information on the virus. Tamir Shklaz and Wisani Shilumani are the brains behind Coronapp.
Shklaz recently graduated from UCT with a degree in electrical and computer engineering. “I am incredibly passionate about empowering people through the use of technology and education,” he said.
Shilumani graduated from UCT in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He started developing apps and websites as a side passion while he was studying, the most notable of which is WeSit, an on-demand babysitting platform.
“The target audience [for Coronapp] is all concerned South African citizens who are seeking reliable and up-to-date information about the COVID-19 outbreak,” the pair said during an interview with UCT News. “Coronapp is a centralised repository for relevant and accurate information regarding COVID-19 in South Africa. Its purpose is to make reliable information highly accessible to South Africans to help people and prevent panic.”
The South African government has warned that any fake news being spread about the COVID-19 pandemic will be dealt with by law, as it will serve to cause unnecessary fear.
Shklaz and Shilumani saw a great deal of misinformation about the outbreak and the nature of the virus circulating on social media.
“The fake news around the outbreak not only created a great deal of uncertainty, but was incredibly dangerous; there were trends such as gargling bleach or supposed home remedies that could cure the virus,” they added. “Additionally, the best possible way for us to fight the virus is to flatten the curve – decrease the speed at which the virus spreads, through social distancing.”
Coronapp not only informs people about the basics of the virus but encourages those who can afford to stay at home to practise social distancing to lessen the load on the South African healthcare system.
“At the time we created the platform, there wasn’t a centralised platform where individuals could get reliable and up-to-date information. Coming from software development backgrounds, we knew a well-built platform could help South Africans protect themselves and their families from the outbreak,” they said.
It took the pair one weekend to build the app. “We worked around the clock from morning until late at night throughout the weekend. However, development is an ongoing process of adding features that are most helpful to people using it,” they said.
The app has a Twitter section that only shows tweets from the National Department of Health. This ensures only accurate information is displayed in real-time as the government releases more reports.
The other news sources come from a variety of places. “We chose only high quality, understandable and actionable information that could help answer the following questions: What is coronavirus? How can I protect myself and others? What is social distancing and how do I implement it? What are some of the myths around the coronavirus? What are the most up-to-date actions of the South African government in response to the virus?”
They are currently trying to make the platform zero-rated and are in conversation with government bodies to get broader support.
The app can be accessed HERE.