COVID-19 online platform connects need with supply
Newly-launched Web-based platform, Covid Connect, aims to be a bridge for businesses and individuals in need or able to offer support amid the coronavirus crisis.
So says Dominic Collett, urban development engineer and account development manager at Royal HaskoningDHV, explaining the motivation behind the platform. Royal HaskoningDHV is the company that offered its insights and experience pro-bono for the Covid Connect project.
Described as a crisis match-making platform, Covid Connect was originally created in response to the need for medical supplies in several hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which was identified by the province’s MEC of economic development tourism and environmental affairs and the KZN Business Chambers Council.
The online platform matched parts of the health sector that were struggling to procure critical medical equipment and supplies with companies that were able to supply necessary items.
Collett explains: “It was at first developed to help the health sector that’s struggling with shortages of critical equipment and supplies. Initial requests through the platform included appeals for more than five million N95 protective face masks by several hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, which were met by many responses and donations.”
Steve Gray, founder of The MakerSpace, the development company behind the platform, adds: “Traditional supply chains have not been able to cope with the radical influx of requests for personal protection equipment, sanitiser and other items needed in the fight against COVID-19, made even more complex by the impact of lockdown and the resultant immense economic challenges.
“Covid Connect creates an online supply chain where people or organisations can ask for or offer help, making connections to solve their challenges and opening up new channels of engagement at a time when it would otherwise have been impossible.”
The platform, which is now close to completing 1 000 matches since launching in April, has received requests for medical supplies, food, information on how to procure Companies and Intellectual Property Commission documentation, and how to apply for UIF payments.
To create the perfect match, Collett says all requests are captured in a database that is cloud-based. “The technology algorithm creates a match or connection, and an e-mail is sent to the matching entities with contact details, allowing them to make any travel and transport arrangements offline.”
Anyone can use the no fee platform, he states. “We’re appealing to corporate SA, government and NGOs. We would encourage all South Africans to share and use this powerful tool to build a comprehensive database of needs and support for the benefit of all South Africans. This match-making platform is a non-profit collaboration, and an expression of solidarity between business, government and NGOs to help solve challenges during this crisis.
“NGOs particularly know what is needed on the ground, but many struggle to connect with specific people or groups that need their help. For example, an NGO may have received abundant donations for food parcels, but it doesn’t know which people or communities need them the most. Covid Connect provides the platform for people to express their specific needs, so that NGOs can help where they are needed.”
Looking to the future, Collett indicates Covid Connect is now fully scalable, and will continue to increase functionality as needed.
“We’re hoping to expand Covid Connect to the agriculture industry/sector to connect – for instance – farmers who are in excess of maize that can help local communities,” he concludes.