By Elesha George
After being snubbed by the government, local tech developer, Elijah James, founder and CEO of The Local Guide is planning to release the ‘Covid Guide’ next week.
The app which will be available on Google Play and Apple IOS, integrates information from various sectors including health, immigration and tourism on a central platform.
“Instead of having to wait on government for them to even look at it, I’ll just put it out into the market place; let the public be the judge”…My solution was designed with not only the features that Jamaica has available, but even more,” he remarked, as he spoke about the many features built into the programme.
The Covid Guide app imitates a guidebook by presenting access to information about what’s going on in tourism, what the protocols are for businesses, and where the nearest hospital or medical services are located.
It also allows users to send emails to Covid services and enables the use of user profiles and chat rooms. In addition, the platform works offline to bring information to persons who may not always have access to data.
“With the other application that they’re looking at, from the solution that I looked through, it doesn’t work offline, and again, not everybody has access to data,” James told Observer.
The developer said he initially decided to build a solution for the government after he and about 100 other tech entrepreneurs heard rumours that the government was looking for an app to manage Covid-related information.
“I purchased my domain on the 25th of June with the intention to provide it and offer it to the government as a solution for Covid-19, so that we could better control the messaging out in the public.”
“I shared the platform with them; I was looking forward to feedback [but] I really didn’t get any feedback at all,” he said disappointedly.
In fact, the developer said he reached out to several government officials including the prime minister and the minister responsible for Information and Technology, hoping to identify what they needed from the solution. He also sent screen shots of Covid Guide’s functionality as an example of what he thought needed to be part of the application.
According to James, this happened one week before Information Minister Melford Nicholas announced government’s intention to contract two outside experts to recreate a Covid app from Jamaica that they felt was the best practical solution to managing the influx of information related to the virus.
Nicholas said that with just a few modifications, the app could be specialised for Antigua and Barbuda in just two weeks.
After the announcement was made, James said he wrote again to the officials voicing how dissatisfied he was that they had chosen to go with an outside firm without first reaching out to the native tech community for solutions. He said the other developers also presented local solutions to the government but they received no response.
“It was very unnerving, very disturbing for me and I was very upset because I just don’t understand, if we are talking about entrepreneurship in Antigua and Barbuda, if we’re talking about diversifying the economy and all that, why are we not trying to give our local entrepreneurs the opportunity to build capacity and even provide a solution that we can be very proud of – to say that it is homegrown, Antiguan and Barbudan?” he questioned. James reportedly used his communications and marketing background to devise and assemble the application in just 24 hours.