Battling the Coronavirus with ManKiwwa: the first citizen-led app in Sri Lanka

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The ‘new normal’ state of being we have all resorted to as a result of COVID-19, requires us to overcome, adapt and improvise in these trying times. 

Community response is not unfamiliar to us Sri Lankans, who band together to support and bridge vulnerable communities with those willing to help while building new systems geared toward coping with the global crisis.  

There are two ways companies can work on damage control in this epidemic; first, by providing resources, getting information to the general public and through donations. The second is by providing a cushion for the economy so that people have jobs to fall back on and for families to recover. 

Battling the Coronavirus with ManKiwwa: the first citizen-led app in Sri Lanka 1
Giants like Google have been mobilizing their resources to assist the US government and relief organizations (Image credits: Google)

We see the giants such as Google mobilizing in the face of COVID-19; supporting the US government and relief organisations; protecting people from misinformation by filtering out fake news; enabling productivity for remote users and students, and advancing health research and science through DeepMind. 

Convincing local governments to adopt new technologies

“ManKiwwa” is a common platform for the everyday Sri Lankan to report general public issues such as garbage dumping, blocked canals, broken roads, dengue hotspots, blown street lights, broken sewage, fallen trees & illegal construction.

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ManKiwwa aims to connect citizens with their local governments to find solutions to local problems. The app does this in a 3-step process. (Image credits: ManKiwwa)

Through this state of the art app, users can reach up to a 100  different services, connecting citizens with authorities such as the police, emergency services, defence, local governments, health officials, Disaster Management Centre, Divisional secretariats, RDA, PRDA, CEB, Water Board, Telco providers, public transport and consumer affairs, all at the touch of a button. 

For citizens, the app is a user-friendly platform that allows for anonymous (unless opted to report with information) reporting with 3 simple clicks, the app further identifies the location of the user and the type of incident which will automatically report the case to the relevant authorities. 

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The three-step process of reporting incidents on the ManKiwwa app

The authorities, on the other end, will receive a  notification on a dashboard with real-time updates along with email notifications, allowing them to seamlessly start an automated or manual workflow to address the issue.

The system can automatically report the incident status to the mobile app with an incident reference number and all dashboards are geo & event fenced.

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Some of the awards ManKiwwa has won over the years. (image credits: ManKiwwa)

At this moment in time, “ManKiwwa” has partnered with Gampaha Municipal Council, Sri Jayawardenapura Municipal Council, Kuliyapitiya Urban Council, Attanagalle Pradeshiya Sabawa and Biyagama Pradeshiya Sabawa, looking forward to furthering collaborations with more authorities in their respective areas.

How does “ManKiwwa” identify COVID-19 cases?

A new feature introduced on “ManKiwwa” allows for reporting of information on COVID-19. 

Any citizens in the respective areas can place a report on the app if; they themselves are infected with COVID-19,  they suspect any individuals who are infected or, report any fellow citizens who have not followed quarantine procedures and guidelines. 

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Following the appearance of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, ManKiwwa has introduced a feature to report information relating to the virus (Image credits: The Independent)

When a citizen makes a report with information pertaining to COVID-19, it will simultaneously reflect in the “ManKiwwa” dashboard provided to the respective Hospital and the Municipal/ Urban council in real-time. 

Once a case is reported, the hospital video calls the provided number to assess the situation and diagnosis of treatment, or make the decision to bring them to the hospital if they show signs of infection. 

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ManKiwwa officially launched this service in the Gampaha Municipal Council area and Kuliyapitiya Urban Council area. (Image credits: ManKiwwa)

“ManKiwwa” officially launched this service on 30th of March 2020 in the Gampaha Municipal Council area and Kuliyapitiya Urban council area. Efforts are being made to make the community aware of the app and its service that can provide for the safety and security of citizens during this ongoing curfew.  

In a community effort to address the shortage of supplies, the facility has been provided for the public to request for “Essential Food” through the platform and has introduced this to the relevant local authorities, however, still in its beta phase.

Can we expect a change of pace with local governments? 

In the words of Shohan Kulasuriya, Founder – ManKiwwa, CEO – Deegenics (Pvt) Ltd,  the introduction of the “ManKiwwa” dashboard, has shown a significant improvement in the service offered by authorities to attend and fix issues, especially in the Urban council and Municipal council areas. 

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Shohan Kulasuriya, Founder – ManKiwwa, CEO – Deegenics (Pvt) Ltd

The high levels of efficiency in response are mainly due to the fact that in Municipal and Urban Councils, the manpower exists for this operation and the authority command area is smaller than the Pradeshiya sabha areas.

Blown street lights, garbage dumping, dengue hotspots, and fallen trees are attended to on the same day or the following day, which has been practised for almost 90% of the issues reported.

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Through the app, many local governments to respond to several issues swiftly (Image credits: ManKiwwa)

Understanding that there are issues that can be fixed immediately while others require an extended period of time to address such as fixing broken roads, sewage and illegal construction require further inspection, additional manpower, and approvals. 

Local authorities have furthered progress by allocating responsibility to a specialized unit who assigns jobs to their respective officers and is in charge of responding and attending to the reported cases while informing progress to the reporter through the “ManKiwwa”  dashboard. 

Does “ManKiwwa” face any barriers when it comes to partnering with local authorities?

At present individual authorities across the country are being approached as they have the power to make independent decisions for their respective areas to provide day to day services for the community.

Shohan observes that even though the authorities and officers are keen on adopting “ManKiwwa”, most of the Council/ Pradeshiya sabha members show resistance to the dashboard due to a barrier in understanding and adopting the new technology. 

At present, they have allocated different wards and are responsible to look into public issues and to solve problems through a hands-on approach, maintaining their close connections built within their localities.

As a solution, there exists the option on the dashboard which would notify the respective ward members on issues reported in their command area, while assigning tasks to the responsible officers. 

The Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils & Local Government has shown interest in utilizing the platform & the service and is currently in the process of requesting ICTA for evaluations on enabling the service Island-wide, allowing for transparency and monitoring of incidents reported. 

The future is here, how do we respond?

The pressure applied by COVID-19 against health care systems is a result of the rate of infection which grows exponentially, while testing kits and services offered through the system cannot cope unless measures implemented are followed by the global public. 

“Flattening the curve” is a term repeatedly addressed by officials and scientists, and monitoring numbers and symptoms is critical in the midst of a pandemic, “ManKiwwa” allows to track and monitor cases that can be reported by citizens which can drastically improve real-time assessments. 

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“Flattening the curve” is a term repeatedly addressed by officials and scientists. Apps like ManKiwwa make it possible (Image credits: Al Jazeera)

Breaking down the stigma of the possibility of testing positive is imperative to safeguard our loved ones and ourselves. 

Between the 24 to 29 March 2020, 26% of the 1.5 million users of an app developed by a King’s College London team in association with the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and a healthcare start-up ZOE Global LTD, reported one or more symptoms; 1,702 of this 26% reported having been tested for COVID-19, with 579 positive results and 1,123 negative results according to the World Economic Forum. 

The hefty stats above mean nothing more than the clear fact of matter reality; reporting your symptoms doesn’t mean you are likely to be tested positive, but it does go to show that it allows for early monitoring of patients who do, which reduces the risk of communal spread of the disease and further complications.

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Having any of the symptoms of COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean you have the virus. But by having a mechanism to report such instances, we can prevent it from spreading within communities (Image credits: Al Jazeera)

A transparent, tech-led system allows for proof of data to pressure governments into better decision making processes and gauge levels of response. 

Everyone loves complaining about how governments drop the ball in times of crisis, citizen-led reporting platforms such as “ManKiwwa” help monitor how many reported cases are sent in through the public and the government’s status with dealing with them. 

“ManKiwwa” is working on introducing more value-added options to the authorities in managing this platform in an efficient way and maintaining KPI’s once a considerable number of authorities and the central government get on board. 

Breakthrough innovations allow for a shift in the baseline of humanity and allow us to build futures while effectively preparing for the obstacles we are bound to face on the path of progress.

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