Ebtsam’s passion for tech begun while studying at university,. it was no surprise, when IT became her full-time work. She later joined forces with her colleague, Tesfalem, who studied physics and web development., and they co-founded their startup TES IT Service, in Asmara. When COVID-19 hit, they combined their skills to develop a user-friendly COVID-19 mobile app that overcomes constrained internet access by using SMS and offline mapping, to facilitate information awareness about the deadly virus.
The Android-based COVID-19 awareness app, which has futuristic potential in most of its functionalities, provides information on the pandemic, including on prevention, symptoms, self-care and contact tracing. Also unique to this app is that it is multilingual, and the pair have also even incorporated sign language. It is also easily adaptable, and accommodates visual, audio and video formats. “Our COVID-19 mobile app has a great impact on our society given that it’s a multi-language app and the target group of the app are every citizen from young to old and people with disabilities (the blind and the deaf). Since information and prevention measures should be everyone’s responsibility, we tried to make our app as entertaining and educational as possible,” says Ebtsam and Tesfalem.
“When the disease first emerged our first thoughts were on how to contribute our knowledge to meet the few drawbacks we have in our society. Creating awareness about the prevention methods was a challenge. That’s when we came up with an idea to develop the COVID-19 awareness mobile application,” they state, adding: “Technology, especially smart phones, impacts everyone’s lives. And providing accurate information through a mobile phone allows everyone to know. This realisation inspired us to develop this product.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
“In the future versions of the application we have plans, to include tracing of people who have been in contact with an infected person. We also plan to upgrade our app for different kinds of diseases mainly affecting our society, working with the health sector of our country.”
Ebtsam and Tesfalem’s deployment of digital platforms that are easily accessible to the population for community outreach to increase public knowledge on the pandemic, strengthen preventive measures to save lives and maintain the population’s physical and mental health is now among the critical tools in Eritrea’s frontline fight against COVID-19.
The application complements the existing communication efforts by the Ministry of Health by ensuring that all information gaps are not only addressed but also that accurate and timely information of the pandemic is made available to the wider population.
“Our COVID-19 mobile app is having a great impact on our society as it is multilingual targeting everyone including those with disabilities like the blind and the deaf.” Ebtsam says. “Since information and prevention measures should be everyone’s responsibility, we made our app educative and included infotainment to cater for a wider possible demographic.”
Their efforts to do more are however limited by lack of funds. “In order to reach our goals and improve our current application we need financial help and equipment support. Our passion and hard work have always been for the betterment of our society and the global community as a whole by building robust applications that improve people’s lives,” Tesfalem says. “In the future we want to concentrate on health issues and how it affects our society, we will work more on mobile and health solutions.”