“With the integration of the COVID-19 Hub into our systems and efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we are now able to use data visualization and tracking tools powered by location intelligence to better plan and implement solutions to address the challenges this virus has posed, for the safety of the nation.”
Harnessing Africa Geoportal to combat COVID-19 in Zimbabwe and build a startup
Leveraging Africa Geoportal
In March 2020, like the rest of the world, Zimbabwe was suffering the impacts of COVID-19. People required information, knowledge, and understanding about the virus including the measures implemented by the government in the fight against the pandemic. Analytics based on authoritative data was needed by officials to make informed decisions, and by the tech community to build locally targeted solutions.
African Surveyors Connect, a community-based nonprofit organization, identified the need for a nationwide initiative to gather and share information and digital tools with residents, decision-makers, and businesses to fight the pandemic. An organization focused on bridging the gap between professionals and students in the geospatial technology industry, African Surveyors Connect staff attended a webinar on Africa GeoPortal (AGP) and immediately recognized the potential of using AGP to enhance their own abilities. The organization also saw that the data and tools available through AGP could help create a comprehensive solution to meet Zimbabwe’s needs and the humanitarian challenges that were a result of the pandemic.
“As [students who are] still in the process of developing and enhancing [our] skills and capacity, the AGP has allowed us to expand our innovations into solving the most pressing and challenging problems that people, businesses, and the nation face in this modern day,” said Letwin Pondo, cofounder of African Surveyors Connect and a student at Midlands State University. “This has also allowed us to share our knowledge and experiences with other youth, as one of our core values is also to build [others'] capacity.”
African Surveyors Connect utilized ArcGIS Developer solutions through ArcGIS Online to build the custom COVID-19 Hub for Zimbabwe. Through the geographic information system (GIS) applications embedded within the hub site, people could access tools such as the vaccination and testing center finders, while decision-makers within various organizations used analytical dashboards to visualize the developing trends of the virus as well as plan for their business operations. The tools also assisted the Ministry of Health and Child Care of Zimbabwe implement data-driven policies for the benefit of the nation throughout this period.
AGP empowered African Surveyors Connect to make a tangible impact in the fight against COVID-19, showcasing the positive change that technology can bring to communities.
Utilizing the data and location intelligence provided by the COVID-19 Hub for Zimbabwe, Burgeon Technologies, a local startup, developed a WhatsApp chatbot to provide relevant information about the pandemic to the local community for those who could not access the internet.
News platforms such as Pindula applauded this initiative and went on to integrate the data, information, and tools into their own websites, as this would spread the initiative to a much greater extent and audience.
Creating local business
Recognizing the potential of geospatial technology in addressing local challenges across different sectors, the African Surveyors Connect team decided to tackle business problems in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The team's initial focus remained on health care (SDG 3) to build upon their expertise and achievements.
The team members leveraged the skills they had developed through using the COVID-19 Hub and identified community needs and market demands to guide the development of a new startup called KM Spatial. The team understood the transformative power of geospatial technology in enhancing business efficiency and solving complex problems. Drawing inspiration from user implementation scenarios available on the AGP, the team utilized these as learning opportunities and developmental stages. Prototypes were developed and tested, ensuring that the team's solutions were practical and effective.
The new startup's journey showcased the team's ability to recognize opportunities, adapt to evolving needs, and utilize GIS as a tool for continuous growth.
To this day, the AGP continues to play a crucial role in KM Spatial's journey. It also serves as a valuable resource for community engagement and professional growth. The African Surveyors Connect team members utilize the platform to continuously enhance their skills, build capacity among youth, and expand the application of GIS to solve complex problems.
Since implementing the COVID-19 Hub, African Surveyors Connect has been involved in several other initiatives, including building out a tourism map for Zimbabwe.
Having achieved success in health-care initiatives, the team has now expanded its focus to the agricultural sector. The team aims to implement solutions that benefit farmers and organizations seeking to improve their livelihood and promote sustainable agricultural practices. By leveraging the knowledge and experience gained from its previous endeavors, African Surveyors Connect is well-positioned to make a meaningful impact in the agricultural space.
African Surveyors Connect’s commitment to unlocking the potential of geospatial technology remains unwavering, driving staff to explore new frontiers, create positive change in diverse sectors of society, and contribute to building a sustainable future in Zimbabwe.
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