The Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) reports that hundreds of South African tech professionals are thronging to a new community to volunteer their services to help the government fight the spread and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is according to Malan Joubert, co-founder of tech job portal OfferZen, who opened the first virtual DevConf Life developer conference on 2 April.
Joubert said the COVID-19 pandemic had driven down local industry demand for tech professionals by 50% virtually overnight, but that OfferZen and other ICT industry stakeholders had quickly moved to work together to look for ways to help address the impacts of the crisis.
“We saw a request from the University of Pretoria for assistance, and we quickly made a WhatsApp group of people who wanted to help,” he says.
But the group grew so quickly that OfferZen had to spin out an app using no-code/low-code tools to manage all the volunteers and their inputs. Joubert reports that within days, the volunteers had contributed data, tools and skills to develop a vulnerability map that illustrated the communities most at risk from the pandemic. This was presented to a Presidential planning meeting.
“They [government] were very excited that they could get answers so quickly, and officially requested OfferZen’s assistance in recruiting and coordinating volunteers from the tech community to support government in combating this threat,” he says.
Project Unlockdown arrived before official SA announcement
“We decided to call it Project Unlockdown – this was before the lockdown, and we thought the name was hilarious at the time, and we set out to recruit volunteers from the community, coordinate them and help solve problems. We now have six OfferZen staff and hundreds of people from the tech community involved,” Joubert said.
Among the projects the volunteers are now working on are a track and trace project, coordinating the maker community to rapidly manufacture medical equipment, and projecting the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Joubert called on all South African tech professionals to volunteer their services at Project Unlockdown. “South Africa need you, and you can help,” he said. To sign up, go to https://www.offerzen.com/community/unlockdown/volunteer/
IITPSA, a partner in this year’s #DevConf, lauded South African ICT professionals for stepping up to apply their skills to overcoming the crisis. “We believe ICT professionals have a duty of care to use their skills and tools for the good of society, and initiatives such as this one illustrate how quickly and efficiently we can address problems if we work together for a common good,” said Tony Parry, IITPSA CEO.