I feel like a failure as I write this (long) post, but I’m still doing it, because I believe it will serve as a return to reality and a call to action for all of us.
Since the beginning of the year, it's been increasingly apparent that this wasn't your average virus- the flood of memes and the alarming breakdowns of the situation by doctors, virologists, and other experts on Reddit/Twitter made that clear.
We need(ed) to act quickly.
Minutes after the 1st confirmed case announcement in 🇲🇺, my team of software devs at Cyberstorm brainstormed the most efficient ways to help #flattenthecurve. We decided to create a mobile app where citizens could report their exact symptoms when they fell ill, and if there was a chance they were infected with Covid-19, they could signal for any need of help, together with their location.
Once enough Mauritians had done that, an interesting pattern would emerge: we would start seeing “hotspots” on the app’s heatmap- regions with high concentrations of reports of Covid-like symptoms. Relevant authorities could then take action to contain the potential outbreak: test people in the area, ask people to avoid the hotspots, strategically relax restrictions in “green areas” to stimulate the economy, and so on.
In <1 week, we had a fully functional app ready. To do this, the team worked round the clock- prioritizing the citizens’ health over our sleep, day jobs(being devs, remote work is natural), and all other needs. I wrote most of the code for the app together with my man Bruno using Dart+Flutter, while the rest of the team worked on the backend. All the while, we were in constant communication with countless representatives from the authorities, pushing for immediate implementation; some were fully cooperative, while others seemed to be on the fence.
One of the concerned ministries, in particular, requested a new feature which would enable citizens to request essential supplies like cooking gas or rice. Wanting to make sure all parties were satisfied, we went back to the lab and worked hard to add the second feature. Maintaining our breakneck pace, we knocked it out in just 2 days.
By then, exactly 1 week had passed since the 1st case. While we were working, the state, their partners, and private companies announced their own digital solutions. To put it lightly, they did not have a brilliant start(http://tiny.cc/eex7lz, http://tiny.cc/hgx7lz, http://tiny.cc/3jx7lz). Even as we were confused by the conflicting words and actions, their setbacks motivated us even further to bring a working solution into the public’s hands ASAP.
Unfortunately, this is where we hit a stubborn roadblock.
Working through bureaucracy is...an incredible challenge. As of today, we are *still* pushing to obtain a concrete green-light from all relevant mauritian authorities. Rolling out something on this scale may be complicated, but I believe it can easily be sorted out if word reaches the right person.
I say this because in Reunion, the app has already been approved by regional authorities and is being distributed by Passerelle Services Ltd as ‘CoronaMapp’. Within <2 days, potential hotspots(you can see them in the screenshots I posted) have already shown up, which should help fuel further action from the authorities concerned. More on that here: https://cutt.ly/qtTMlzl. Organisations from other countries are even reaching out(on their own!) to work with us, because they believe the project has serious merit.
Mauritians are not the type of people to stay home waiting for help to arrive. There are many others like us doing their part: UoM students are building ventilators and reliable news aggregators, the Mauritius Makers Community is 3D-printing face shields, tailors are sewing cotton masks. I’m only asking for one thing: do not let our efforts be wasted in such a time of crisis.
I first started writing this post because I felt like I wanted to share more of my work(and thus provide more value) on SM platforms. I immediately hit writer’s block. I knew that wasn’t what I truly wanted to write about. I now realize that I’ve done all this rambling for 2 main reasons:
1) If you or someone you know can help save lives, we’d be eternally grateful if you/they could send me a quick message. If not, you can help us find them by sharing this post. I promise to not take much more of your/their time.
2) Before I go any further, disclaimer: I’m only 18, so please take all of this with a grain of salt and correct me if I’m wrong. I am completely against fake news and wouldn’t want to be accidentally spreading it and end up in jail :)
If you’re saving the world by staying at home, kudos, you’re already doing better than most. However, I think you can utilize more of your potential to help both yourself and others.
Lately, I’ve been concerned as to how we’ll build wealth in the future as a country. In the past, we made most of our money by offering physical services and goods, i.e. beaches, touristic/entertaining events, hotels, agricultural & textile products. With the current situation however, movement, distribution of physical products, and mass gatherings have all taken a hit.
Again- I could be wrong, but I think the most effective way to generate value at the moment is to create and provide new, intangible, virtual goods. Pick up a new skill, read more books, write more, fill our enormous gap in *reliable* local online businesses, and so on. If things escalate, in the worst case scenario you’ll still be able to feed yourself, because you learnt to use the internet wisely instead of watching someone attempt the latest challenge that you don’t even care about. Just saying.
I thank you for taking the effort to read through this post. I sincerely hope that we all successfully overcome this challenge.
You can reach me for anything at [email protected]. Special thanks to Bagha Charuduth for pointing out my painfully obvious typos <3.