/ 24 March 2020

Coronapp is a new online platform for accessing accurate information about Covid-19

Coronapp Team
Engineering graduates Tamir Shklaz and Wisani Shilumani are the brains behind Coronapp.

In an effort to quell panic and provide South Africans with reliable and accurate information about the coronavirus (Covid-19), two University of Cape Town (UCT) alumni have built Coronapp, an online platform for sharing information about the disease.

Engineering graduates 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. The duo both have previous experience in app development and wanted to do their bit to help combat misinformation about Covid-19. 

“We 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,” the developers said.

The app’s target audience is concerned South African citizens who are seeking reliable and up-to-date information about the Covid-19 outbreak. It “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.”

Coronapp not only informs people of the basic facts about Covid-19, but encourages people to practise social distancing to lessen the load on the South African healthcare system. This approach has now become the law, after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a 21-day lockdown, effective from midnight on Thursday March 26.

At the time the Coronapp was created, there wasn’t a centralised platform providing individuals with reliable, up-to-date information. Because of their software-development backgrounds, the two duo knew a well-built platform could help South Africans protect themselves and their families from the outbreak.

It took Shklaz and Shilumani one weekend to build the app. They worked around the clock from morning until late at night, throughout the weekend. However, app development is an ongoing process of adding features that are most helpful to people using it. The Twitter section shows tweets exclusively from the national department of health. This ensures only accurate information is displayed in real-time, as the government releases more reports.

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The other news available on the app is sourced from a variety of publications. The Coronapp shares 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?

The platform has already helped thousands of South Africans. However, with the help of a large partner, the creators believe the platform can make a significant difference in the fight against the outbreak. They are currently searching for institutional partners, such as government, nonprofit organisations or large companies, to help raise funding for further development of the platform and to spread awareness. 

The Coronapp is just one of many global efforts to provide reliable, accurate information about the coronavirus pandemic. Locally, fact-checking outfit Africa Check has collated all its coronavirus fact-checks in one place, and Media Hack has also created a coronavirus dashboard using department of health data. 

— This is an edited version of a story released by UCT’s communication and marketing department