Citizens turn to GovChat to find COVID-19 resources

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GovChat CEO Eldrid Jordaan.
GovChat CEO Eldrid Jordaan.

GovChat, the citizen engagement platform, has experienced a spike in use since the local outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), says founder and CEO Eldrid Jordaan.

South Africa has recorded 12 739 COVID-19 cases since the outbreak of the disease in early March, with 5 676 recoveries and 238 deaths confirmed to date.

With the outbreak of the disease, citizens turned to GovChat to search for their closest COVID-19 public or private testing stations, or COVID-19 test results, reveals Jordaan.

Furthermore, South Africans are looking for public representatives (ward councillors and traditional leaders), the closest public facilities such as home affairs, police stations, health clinics and application information about the specialR350 social relief grant.

“Given the most recent application, the latest monthly active user volume is approximately 1.5 million. In the last five days, GovChat has processed more than 30 million messages,” he says, noting the figures are rapidly increasing every minute.

Founded in 2016 and launched in 2018, GovChat is the official communications platform for government. It was introduced in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the Independent Electoral Commission.

Jordaan says GovChat has entered into COVID-19-related open government partnerships (OGPs) with COGTA, the Department of Health (DOH), as well as the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

“Accordingly, when the COVID-19 crisis arose, GovChat was well-placed to adapt its technology to provide a number of services and features to assist all arms of state in its various needs for COVID-19 management.”

In regards to COGTA, the OGPs focus on the provision of broad citizen feedback in regard to local, provincial and national service delivery and performance. For example, municipal reports on water and electricity disruption.

Through an integrated ICT partnership between BCX/Telkom, GovChat and the DOH, an end-to-end symptom tracking, testing and information dissemination digital platform was launched.

GovChat joined forces with SASSA tosupport the digitisation of the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SDR) grant.

Revealing the applications process for the R350 SDR grant this week, SASSA and the Department of Social Development indicated it had partnered with GovChat and the National Development Agency, to facilitate digital applications for the special grants.

At the time, SASSA and the department said grant applications can be uploaded via WhatsApp, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), e-mail and a special portal on the SASSA Web site.

According to GovChat, its platform, accessed through WhatsApp, FaceBook Messenger, SMS and USSD channels, provides a secure application portal for pre-qualifying citizens, automating filling, verification and applicant assessment.

Jordaan states: “Our core purpose is to facilitate government citizen engagement through efficient and user-friendly digital interfaces. The partnership with SASSA is an example of how we are working with the South African government to automate and streamline processes on a secure and compliant digital platform, to empower South Africans to easily interact with government.”

GovChat will continue developing products in the citizen engagement space with government, non-profit organisations and selected interested private sector enterprises and institutions, he concludes.

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