Proudly South African app navigates the complexities of the lockdown

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published May 11, 2020

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Working under challenging time constraints, from three separate locations and relying on only virtual means of communication, four young South Africans were determined to assist their countrymen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group have created a proudly South African application, aptly named Lockdown Bozza, which helps people navigate the complexities of each level of the national lockdown.

A major aspect of the app, according to one of its co-founders Ahren Posthumus, was to provide reliable information to South Africans, to prevent them from relying on fake news about the coronavirus.

“The lockdown is already a challenge for everyone and now with fake news commonly shared in WhatsApp groups, usually with good intentions, this has seen many people arrested or completely lose faith in the guidelines outlined by the government,” he explained.

“We felt it so important to give South Africans instant, relevant and, most importantly, accurate information.”

The 24-year-old from Cape Town added that the app is capable of assisting with decision making and highlights what can be done, instead of what is not currently being allowed.

“It also lets people see, at a high level and in detail, how the restrictions ease up as we move down in levels, something that was previously not clear,” said Posthumus.

The process of creating Lockdown Bozza began after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the risk-adjusted strategy to reopen the SA economy through a phased approach.

Posthumus worked together with fellow Capetonian Adam Romyn, who he met in university.

The pair were already the founders of Jobmatcher, an application-based platform that provides low and unskilled labour in South Africa, with the opportunity to find ad-hoc work, while building a verifiable rating for their competencies, across a wide range of sectors.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg couple Rahul and Emma Patel comprised the rest of the team, who only had about a week to develop, test and release the app.

“The entire app was developed from three separate lockdown locations and it’s been clear from day one that we all share a passion for the use of technology, to solve socio-economic issues in SA.”

During the creation of Lockdown Bozza, which is the lockdown equivalent of what Eskom Se Push is for load shedding, all four members of the group offered their unique skill sets.

“Adam and I immediately began development of the app, whilst Emma focused on the graphics and branding, with Rahul tackling the massive task of categorising and simplifying government regulations,” said Posthumus.

Without a common working space or even face-to-face interaction, the group still managed to successfully complete their individual tasks in time for the app to be launched.

“We had frequent video calls and iterated on the idea really quickly, the four of us were actually in three different locations,” he said.

“To my surprise this actually worked really well! I think this stems from the fact that we are all very aligned with what we set out to achieve.”

The group then settled on calling the app Lockdown Bozza, in accordance with its proudly South African roots.

“The sentiment behind it is that the app should serve as your guide, your lockdown boss or bozza,” Posthumus said.

“We wanted it to be something uniquely South African, but still give an idea of what the app does.”

After working day and night, the group managed to produce an app unique to South Africans during the Covid 19 pandemic and its consequent regulations.

“The app is straightforward, you pick your location (province and district) and we show you what restrictions apply,” explained Posthumus.

“These are shown in activity bubbles, which are either red (not permitted), orange (some restrictions apply) or green (allowed).”

Lockdown Bozza also has a search feature, which allows users to add activities to a personalised list and has a curfew countdown.

“You can look at an activity and see what restrictions apply, at any lockdown level, not just the one we are currently on.”

While the app is still new, it received 5million page interactions in the first 72 hours of its release, with the number of individual users rising to about a million in the first three days.

“We are only just getting started, we want to reach all parts of the population for our mission to be effective.”

Posthumus hopes the government will officially endorse the app in order for them to reach a wider population.

They are also looking for financial assistance from the corporate sector, to keep the app free to end users.

“We are talking to MTN and Vodacom about potentially zero-rating the app, so that users can access the information with no data costs.”

To download the Lockdown Bozza app, visit the website.

The Saturday Star

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