Local app tackles lockdown anxiety in SA, UK

Read time 4min 50sec

A team of four tech entrepreneurs from South Africa launched a free app to help people know what they can and cannot do during COVID-19 lockdowns in SA and the UK.

Known as Lockdown Bozza in SA and Lockdown Boss in the UK, the app is a free to use Web application that makes lockdown regulations simple.

The team describes Lockdown Bozza as “a Web site that behaves like a mobile app, meaning it works across multiple devices without the need to visit an app store for it to be downloaded”.

The app gets its information from official government guidelines and other reputable industry sources. Fake news is not tolerated and can be reported by users, the co-founders of the app say.

“The app allows South African and British citizens to see what they can and cannot do quickly, easily and reliably,” says Rahul Patel, co-founder of the app.

“It lets the user select their region, so they can get the information specific to their area. Activities are then displayed in traffic light bubbles that quickly show what is permitted or not. Green meaning the activity is allowed; amber meaning there are some restrictions; and red meaning the activity is not permitted.”

The co-founders are Patel, Ahren Posthumus, Adam Romyn and Emma Patel.

Providing clarity

The app comes as SA is in level three of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, there has been some confusion on what is allowed and what is not allowed during the period.

The number of COVID-19 infections in the country continues to rise, with cases at 52 991 and the national death toll at 1 162, as of this morning.

Meanwhile, the UK has 289 140 confirmed cases and over 48 000 fatalities. Lockdown measures are starting to be eased after more than two months of restrictions in the UK.

With SA still anticipating its COVID-19 peak, president Cyril Ramaphosa has said government will continue to take whatever action necessary to safeguard the lives of citizens.

While the president said the country will move to a higher alert level in specific areas if necessary, getting to know all the requirements will become a challenge.

According to Patel, within a short space of time, the Lockdown Bozza app has had over seven million interactions across 1.3 million users.

“The solution will assist organisations to greatly simplify COVID-19 compliance for their staff and/or students and ensure they rebuild trust and safety within formal environments, such as workplaces and schools.

“The aim is to remove some of the anxiety that surrounds lockdowns by clearly and effectively showing the public what they are allowed to do and thus help them return to ‘normal’ as safely as possible.”

On why the entrepreneurs went for the UK market, Patel explains: “Fortunately, two of our founders are UK-born so this helped a little in terms of understanding the local context.

“However, the biggest help was due to the large South African community based in the UK, who were early adopters and sharers of the South African app. After South Africa, the second highest country with users for our app was the UK, so it was a natural next step for us.”

On the Lockdown Bozza app, green means the activity is allowed; amber means there are some restrictions; and red means the activity is not permitted.
On the Lockdown Bozza app, green means the activity is allowed; amber means there are some restrictions; and red means the activity is not permitted.

Viral ‘marketing’

The biggest lesson the team learnt from SA before their UK foray was “that of timing”, Patel says.

He notes they built the app in SA within five days. “Once the app was live, we simply shared the link to our entire address book. Given the simplicity of the app, and the complexity of the regulations, the app went viral.

“That was the extent of the marketing plan. Create a product that focuses on solving an immediate problem and users will do your marketing for you.

“These lessons have informed the UK launch and we have made sure the app is customised to legislation and guidelines which varies by country; ie, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Patel says the start-up does not have any direct partnerships with the SA or UK governments at this stage.

“However, we have been approached by the office of the Presidency in South Africa and we remain very open to any collaboration to further ensure the reliability of the information, and the speed with which it is released on the app.”

He adds that as the global economy reopens for business, Lockdown Bozza is open to private and public sector partners that have faced significant disruption to their business model due to the impact of the pandemic.

“We believe the correct application of technology can be used to solve many problems facing our society.”

The Lockdown Bozza team is self-funding its operations. However, Patel says daily running costs are mounting and they are looking for financial partners to keep the app free.

On post-lockdown plans, Patel says: “Recently, we have been inundated with requests from organisations (including corporates, retailers and educational institutions) who require a customised version of our ‘lockdown application’ to help guide employees and/or students on the revised standard operating procedures as we move towards a ‘new normal’.

“We have begun working on a ‘school’ application for a US client which we expect to launch before their new term commences in August. Using technology to simplify complex information and processes is our mission.”

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