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Helping out during COVID19 lockdown

A 72 hour hackathon to build a platform that matters

At midnight, 26 March 2020, South Africa went into lockdown to flatten the curve of the COVID19 pandemic. The implications of this abrupt halt to the economy has been nothing short of devastating – small businesses have begun to fold, employees retrenched, and even large corporations have been forced to take drastic measures to stay afloat and keep their employees paid.

The most frustrating thing about being on lockdown is that we’re unfortunately surrounded with the suffering happening around us on social media due to the Coronavirus impact, but we’re powerless to do anything. We knew we couldn’t sit back and watch as the worst came to be, and so we did what we do best – analyse the problem and develop a solution.

The result was a 72 hour hackathon to produce a platform that connects those in need with those who can help – Helpout.org.za. We wanted to create a place that gives people a voice to reach out for help, and where those who want to help can make a meaningful change.

It all started on Thursday, 26 March, the last day before lockdown. An idea took shape – create a map of South Africa where users can geotag their needs and services, creating a visual analogue of a community’s lockdown status. We reached out to our friends at BackaBuddy to see what they could do to help – and they were quick to step up to the plate. They offered to partner on advocacy and integration, ensuring that causes listed on the platform could receive donations safely and securely through their platform using any number of payment mechanisms including the popular Snapscan and Zapper channels.

We spent Friday putting our heads together, creating a brand and beating out wireframes for a user experience that would be easy to catch on to, and by Saturday, the hackathon was on. Developers and designers gave up their weekends to bring the platform to life and by the time the clock struck midnight on Sunday, designs were complete and development was being polished. Monday brought testing, tweaking, and a few more tricks out of the development bag and by Tuesday, the platform was going through quality assurance before finally going live.

When the smoke had cleared and the hackathon was over, we launched Helpout.org.za – a geotagged platform where people in need can call out to their community for help, and a place where community members who have something to offer can list their services.

We can’t thank all the volunteers at both TouchFoundry and BackaBuddy enough for all the time and energy they donated towards this cause. It’s proactive problem solving and selflessness like they’ve shown that will ultimately be the cure to the economical fall out extending from Coronavirus. We hope that you’ll follow suit, sign up at Helpout.org.za and do your part to help your community.