How GovChat helped South African administrations change during the lockdown

The GovChat service has proven to be an integral part of the Republic of South Africa’s administrations’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic. CIO Africa interviewed its founding CEO, Eldrid Jordaan, apparently via chat.

Eldrid Jordaan attended a dozen different meetings every day at 1 p.m. As the founder and director of GovChat, the official civic engagement platform on behalf of the South African government, Eldrid Jordaan is the man responsible for connecting millions of citizens with government officials. And the workload has only increased due to the coronavirus outbreak. The government is actually using the platform as part of its efforts to address the social and economic impact of the Covid-19 health crisis.

In that chat exchange, Jordaan explained to the CIO Africa why he created the platform, launched in September 2018 in collaboration with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and how he and his team contributed to the fight of the South African Government against Covid-19.

CIO Africa: Tell us about your professional background.

Eldrid Jordaan: I was part of the team that started Mxit, a free South African instant messaging app. I was on the management team at Mxit, which enabled me to measure the appetite of the country’s citizens for a platform that gives young South Africans the opportunity to interact with the government. That experience taught me that people don’t really want to communicate with the national government; They were more interested in speaking to their local public officials who could address the issues closer to home. When Mixt closed its doors, I started GovChat.

What was the business / social problem you wanted to solve with GovChat?

The main goal was to bridge the communication gap between citizens and government and enable them to connect with each other through platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and USSD [Unstructured Supplementary Service Data ou Données de Services Supplémentaires non Structurées, un service télématique mobile, une sorte de minitel sur mobile développé uniquement en Afrique, NDLR]. We didn’t develop a mobile application for two reasons. The first reason is of course related to the high data costs in the country. And second, because around 80% of all phones in the African continent are Android phones that have major messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook pre-installed. Instead of building our own standalone app, we decided to build our platform within these existing, pre-installed messaging platforms.

Can you explain your contribution to us regarding the COVID-19 health crisis?

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