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COVID-19 AppDate Pt 1: Apps to beat lockdown

It is a struggle for many to get through the current lockdown. SEAN BACHER rounds up news sites and apps that will help keep up and keep sane.

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CoronaVirus.Datafree website

Realising that not everyone is able to get to a store to buy airtime or data, the South African National Health Department has opened a site that allows citizens to keep up to date with the latest on COVID-19 without the need for any data or airtime.

Users simply need to type in coronavirus.datafree.co into their address bar, or click on the link.

They will then be presented with an easy to use, uncluttered webpage showing information about the virus, the latest press releases, symptoms, preventative tips, government statements and the latest statistics, including tests conducted, positive cases and deaths.

I found this to be the most accurate site in terms of statistics, as they are updated as soon as new information is fed to them.

Platform: Any desktop or smartphone with an up-to-date Internet browser

Expect to pay: A free service

Stockists: Click on the following link: coronavirus.datafree.co 

Contact NDoH service

Similar to the CoronaVirus.Datafree website is the Contact NDoH WhatsApp service –  also set up by the South African National Health Department. However, this service works through WhatsApp.

To get started, users need to save the number 0600 123 456 to their contacts (they can name the contact whatever they want.) They then need to message Hi to that contact. A menu will be presented to them with keywords like Cases, News, Myths, Prevention and Symptoms. Once a keyword is typed in, a new menu follows, allowing users to find out exactly what they need.

The Contact NDoH service is available in English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and Sesotho – making it much easier for more South Africans to understand.

Platform: Any smartphone using WhatsApp

Expect to pay: A free service but users will incur data charges.

Stockists: Save 0600 123 456  as a contact and WhatsApp the word hi to get going.

MTN GiGYMa

MTN is helping South African women to exercise while in lockdown. Available on MTN’s Youtube channel and on social media @MTNza, GiGYMA is a digital home-based workout series that is accessible from most smartphones, tablets or computers.

According to MTN, the GiGYMa series is designed to help the majority of South African women stay fit, hence the name, a play on “gijima”, which means “run” in IsiZulu. The company also selected a South African ambassador who is not a fitness instructor in her own right, but who is passionate about exercising and wants to share tips that are helping her continue to live healthily during this time.

MTN GiGYMa features Ncumisa Pongoma in a series of videos, showcasing how everyday household items can help you get into shape and keep up with your fitness goals at home.

Platform: Most smartphones and computers with up-to-date Internet browsers

Expect to pay: Free to watch

Stockists: Each of the MTN GiGYMa work-out videos is accessible through MTN’s Youtube channel and shared across MTN’s Facebook,Twitter and Instagram pages.

Showmax spreads the news

Showmax has added seven news channels for people to tune into during lockdown. They include BBC World News, SABC News, Sky News, CNN, Newzroom Afrika, Al Jazeera and Euronews.

User in South Africa can access these channels through the Internet using browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge. They can also access them through Samsung (2017 and later) and LG (2014 and later) smart TVs. 

Android and iOS devices will soon be able to access the channels.

Platform: Computers with up-to-date browsers with mobile devices being able to connect in the next few days.

Expect to pay: All that is needed is a valid Showmax account

Stockists: Visit the Showmax site here for more information.

Houseparty

Houseparty is the face-to-face social networking app. In addition to being able to have group chats in real time, it allows you to play games with each other, challenge each other in general knowledge, movie, music and a variety of other categories. One can also have drawing competitions much like Pictionary.

Overall it is a fun app, it is well laid out, and should offer endless hours of fun. And, should you get bored with the games, you can just video chat to each other with little to no lag.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit Houseparty here for installation instructions.

Forgood volunteering platform

Online social platform forgood.co.za, which connects people for good causes around the country, is encouraging South Africans to spend their lockdown period making a difference through virtual volunteering. From designing a home workout routine for kids, to helping a substance abuse prevention programme with financial management, virtual volunteering is a way for South Africans to create impact, without leaving their homes.

Virtual or remote volunteering involves volunteering from where you are, taking on digital tasks like social media support, marketing, writing, training, design, data capturing, providing legal advice and more. The forgood platform acts as a central point, connecting the skills and talents of individuals and businesses with non-profit, social impact organisations in need of those specific skills. The platform also offers a safe way to donate money to verified non-profit organisations.

Forgood has launched a dedicated #Coronavirus campaign, which aims to highlight all the relevant needs that are posted daily by the 400 plus non-profit organisations signed up on the platform.

The following options are available via their online platform:

  1. Volunteering your time or skills virtually – all one needs is the internet. If you can’t find something you’re passionate about, create a personalised offer and forgood will match it to a cause in need of your skills.
  2. Donate money – as a result of the lockdown, charities and non-profits who usually rely on donations are struggling to secure essentials, including food and hygiene products.. Donations from R50 are accepted. 

Platform: Most computers or smartphones with an up-to-date Internet browser.

Expect to pay: Just your time and expertise.

Stockists: Visit the for good website here for more information.

Zoom

In case you’ve been living in communications lockdown, Zoom has become the go-to tool of social distancing.The app and website lets you connect to colleagues or friends wherever they are. There are hundreds of similar apps, but Zoom offers a few features other don’t. It can connect up to 100 people in one meeting, and one can set participants to join as view-only attendees.

To join a group, one needs to sign up, find the group and hit the connect option. One is then presented with an easy-to-use display that allows have private chats, shared screens and strategising before presenting to the entire group.

In addition to great voice quality, Zoom offers superb video quality with very little connection disruptions and is  able to connect over 4G/LTE and 3G networks.

Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS and Android

Expect to pay: The free version allows up to 100 participants per group but the meetings are limited to 40 minutes.

The Pro version costs R266 per month with a 24 hour cap on meetings of 100 participants. It also offers 1GB of cloud storage.

The Business package retails for R337 per month and offers all that the Pro version does plus the ability to add up to 300 participants to a meeting and unlimited cloud storage.

Stockists: Visit Zoom here to get more information

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