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8 apps addressing some of South Africa’s pressing problems [Digital All Stars]

Digital All Stars is a series of articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.

South Africa is a unique country with unique challenges, but technology (and innovative solutions using technology) is attempting to solve these issues, or at least reduce their impact on society.

With the commonality of smartphones across all income levels of society, running the likes of Android, iOS and Windows, apps have become one of the more essential change makers for developers of solutions.

From financial management to crime reporting and prevention, to finding free data to contact friends and family, to making the most of grocery shopping — apps developed in South Africa by South African developers have come in leaps and bounds.

In this piece, we take a look at a few apps trying to solve some of the country’s most pressing issues, often reworking simple technology that was previously taken for granted.

Namola

Category: Public safety
Platforms: Android and iOS
Developer: Ever Africa; Tshwane Metro Police Department

namola ios android app

2017 has seemingly been Namola’s breakthrough year.

In June, it became the most downloaded app on iOS in South Africa after it was featured by investigative journalism show Carte Blanche. The app also remains in the top ten most downloaded apps on Android too.

But what is it?

Namola aims to bring public servants, namely the police, closer to its citizens.

Instead of simply phoning 10111 and requesting assistance via telephone, Namola allows users to request police assistance alongside their GPS-calculated location.

Beyond this clear advantage, which also ensures that police from the closest precinct is deployed increasing efficiency and response times, the app also decreases the chance of misinformation and misunderstandings — a problem that can arise when information is passed telephonically.

Users who are victims of crime need not be the only users of the app. Bystanders or witnesses of crimes are also encouraged to use the service and those requesting police assistance will also get a picture of the officer and vehicle, similarly to Uber.

“Namola provides data analytics that allow for police to identify crime hotspots and deploy resources accordingly,” the app’s official website explains.

“Furthermore, Namola allows for citizens to rate police responses, and for police to rate citizen call-outs, ensuring there is a virtuous feedback loop and allowing police management to improve the quality of service delivery.”

The app initially launched in 2015, piloted by the Tshwane Metro Police but has expanded to other areas of South Africa including Stellenbosch.

FindFreeWiFi

Category: Utilities, data management
Platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone
Developer: Dawid van Graan; Broken Keyboards Software; Rogue Code

findfreewifi ios android app

FindFreeWiFi’s mission statement is simple: “To help you find free WiFi spots around South Africa.”

But that mission statement is more important than what it may initially seem.

The app, which first emerged in 2013, allows users to find locations — be it restaurants, retailers or public spaces — that have WiFi hotspots across South Africa. While some of these hotspots are open and free, with others require some degree of business transaction at an establishment, it’s nonetheless useful to know where you can find internet in the city you’re in.

It’s also relevant as data prices in South Africa continue to be out of touch for most.

As smartphone technology becomes more pervasive, WiFi initiatives like Project Isizwe have sprung up across South Africa.

“In the perfect world there is free WiFi anywhere and it is unlimited, and I’m sure at some point we’re going to get to that,” FindFreeWiFi founder Simon Stewart told ITWeb in an interview.

Stash

Category: Financial management
Platforms: Android
Developer: Liberty SA

stash ios android app

With the cost of living spiraling out of control, with water and electricity increasing in price, and with economic uncertainty continually rearing its head in 2017, Liberty’s Stash attempts to make saving easier for South Africa’s consumers.

Instead of requiring users to save a set amount, the app employs an easier solution.

“Round up your purchases to the nearest R10 and invest the digital spare change in SA’s biggest companies,” the app’s website reads. This means that whenever a digital transaction is made, or whenever your registered card is swiped, Stash takes the left over change and saves it into a tax-free investment kitty.

Liberty also explains that this R10 round-up can also be adjusted, allowing users to save as much or as little as they like.

At the time of writing, the app only works with Absa, Standard Bank, Nedbank, FNB, Discovery, RMB and Investec. Capitec isn’t yet supported. Additionally, there is currently no iOS app.

Liberty told Memeburn that an iOS app is in development.

SnapScan

Category: Mobile payments
Platforms: Android and iOS
Developer: FireID

SnapScan

Mobile money is seemingly the talk of the town, with companies like Google, Apple and Samsung all making big plays in this segment internationally. But a local company is still leading the way in some aspects.

SnapScan, now backboned by Standard Bank, uses the age old technology of QR Codes to enable mobile payments. While you could say that mobile payments aren’t new, SnapScan has other benefits.

For one, the company partnered with magazine The Big Issue, to allow people to purchase copies at intersections without the exchange of physical cash. It also allows smaller operations, restaurants and establishments to make use of cashless payment systems too.

The City of Cape Town has also employed SnapScan, enabling the system for mobile parking payments.

SnapScan is currently used by over 25 000 merchants across South Africa, while it regularly features within the top 100 most downloaded apps on both iOS and Android.

GoMetro

Category: Transport
Platforms: Android and iOS
Developer: GoMetro

GoMetro

With Cape Town’s rail service in disarray, transport app GoMetro allows its users access to train timetables, user submitted reports on train movements and one particularly important feature — the ability to alert your boss if you’re going to be late.

For many stuck waiting for the trains or stuck on the trains daily, this feature is invaluable.

GoMetro also covers the likes of the Gautrain, MyCiti, Rea Vaya and Golden Arrow buses across Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

MySOS

Category: Emergency
Platforms: Android and iOS
Developer: MySOS; Vutech

mysos sa android app rocking the daisies

You might be wondering why Namola and MySOS are both on this list. But MySOS is slightly more attuned for outright emergencies rather than alerting police to a potential breach of law.

“South Africa has a unique situation with numerous emergency service providers from both the public and private sector, offering emergency assistance solutions to clients in the medical, rescue, security and roadside assistance industries,” mySOS explains on its website.

Effectively, the app gives users a central place to request assistance from other authorities, from roadside assistance, to medical emergency teams to the sea rescue institute.

The app also acts as a central listings app for more commonly requested services (that may or may not be emergency related), including a list of medical practitioners, vets and pharmacies in any given area.

Additionally, if you’re out in the field, the app can also track your location, perfect for day hikers.

MySOS was also one of the five winners at Cape Town’s Seedstars World Event in 2015.

22seven

Category: Financial management
Platforms: Android and iOS
Developer: 22seven

22seven

We’ve covered 22seven extensively on Memeburn and Ventureburn, an app that first emerged back in 2012. It has since grown under the ownership of Old Mutual.

It differs slightly from Stash too, in that its not entirely focussed on investing cash. While the latter allows users to passively save for rainy days, 22seven gives users more control over their expenditure and budgets.

22Seven allows users to add and manage multiple accounts from multiple financial institutions, akin to a digital financial advisor. The app allows users to set and keep track of budgets, be more cognizant of expenditure and plan their financial roadmaps for the month ahead.

The app has since been wholly absorbed into Old Mutual.

SNAPnSAVE

Category: Coupons and rewards
Platforms: Android and iOS
Developer: SNAPnSAVE, Ivysea 18

SNAPnSAVE (1)

As the cost of groceries and basic household goods balloon, stretching your earnings has never been more important.

SNAPnSAVE, which was first launched back in mid-2015, allows users to get back a percentage of their cash spend.

Users of the app get cash back on items they select by scanning their till slip with their smartphone camera and uploading it with the SNAPnSAVE app. Users then receive a wiCode, which can be redeemed at a number of partner retailers.

At the moment, these retailers include grocery stories like Food Lovers Market, Shoprite and Checkers, to online stores like Loot and Takealot.

The service announced that it had surpassed 150 000 users in September 2016 while returning around R1.26-million to its customers.

Author | Andy Walker: Editor

Andy Walker: Editor
Camper by day, run-and-gunner by night, Andy prefers his toast like his coffee -- dark and crunchy. Specialising in spotting the next big Instagram cat star, Andy also dabbles in smartphone and game reviews over on Gearburn. More