Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

The story behind the Eskom Se Push app and founders' struggles

By SAMEER NAIK Time of article published Jan 11, 2020

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Johannesburg - Dan Wells and Herman Maritz barely have any free time these days. When they are not busy with their jobs in e-commerce, the two Capetonians are completely immersed in working on their push notification application, which has become a huge hit among load shedding-hit South Africans over the past few years.

Wells and Maritz are the proud creators of the “Eskom Se Push” app, with well over 2.5 million users to date. This week, as Stage 2 blackouts resumed, the app gained 1.3 million new users.

The app alerts users to upcoming bouts of load shedding and also gives a detailed breakdown of what each stage means.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in users in the last few months,” said Maritz. “Each time there is load shedding, we gain more users.”

But while the app continues to grow, Maritz and Wells face numerous challenges with their app. 

“We have two big problems that we deal with,” said Maritz.

The load-shedding schedules are not static. Municipalities update schedules without informing us. We have to manually update these schedules with Excel sheets, so this is quite a big challenge.”

“Also, there are a lot of different devices out there, all with their own bugs.

“Specifically, Huawei devices are making our life difficult. We are trying to get our hands on some test devices to solve the issues.”

They also run the app with very little funding and no support.

“We work in our spare time. We do have a tiny advertisement that helps with the server cost. Sometimes it’s more stressful than other times. But we manage.”

The two have full-time e-commerce jobs, which means they have to work on the app in their spare time.

“We really would like to work as much as possible on the app, but our work comes first. We need to pay the bills, so we mostly work on the app after dinner and on weekends.”

While running the app is challenging, Maritz and Wells find great joy in knowing they are helping other South Africans. 

“Load shedding is no fun, but it’s happening, whether we like it or not.

“We all can decide if it makes us stronger or weaker. We’re trying to make it easier to plan ahead and make load shedding something that we can deal with.

“It helps us and we hope it helps others.”

Asked if he thought load shedding would eventually disappear, Maritz quipped: “Of course! We hope we can find a different use for the app then.”

Saturday Star

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