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COVID-19: The latest giveaways in Sri Lanka to surf this wave

By Arteculate Mar 22, 2020 #COVID-19

It’s been a little over a week since COVID-19 returned to Sri Lanka. With each passing day, there are more confirmed cases. As the numbers rise, a cloud of uncertainty continues to grow larger. To keep the virus at bay, the government continues to take stricter measures, the latest being an islandwide curfew. Naturally, this has disrupted countless lives. Despite the challenges of the time, several organizations aim to make things easier. 

The online COVID-19 trackers

Recently, the Health Promotion Bureau updated its website. The updated website, which was built by Arimac, a Sri Lankan digital solutions provider, offers updates of the situation both as a summary and in a detailed manner. Additionally, it also offers detailed information about COVID-19 and what steps you can take to protect yourself. Additionally, the Health Promotion Bureau also has a Viber group, which you can join by clicking here to get updates.

COVID-19 | Arimac | Arimac Lanka | Health Promotion Bureau | HPB | Health Promotion Bureau Sri Lanka | HPB Sri Lanka
The updated website of the Health Promotion Bureau

But what took us by surprise was that alongside this updated website, an API was also launched. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse shared that its purpose was to offer real-time updates of the situation in Sri Lanka to the media. Granted the documentation could improve. Nevertheless, this is still a commendable step forward by the authorities to share updates promptly. 

Of course, it’ll be a while before we see the local media start using this API. The local tech community, on the other hand, has already started using it. Already, we’ve seen a Google Chrome extension by Isuru Buddhika and a Telegram bot by Shageevan Sachithanandan using the API to deliver real-time updates of the situation in Sri Lanka. 

Alongside these efforts, there have been volunteer efforts to build COVID-19 trackers using other means. The accuracy of some of these are questionable. Others like the tracker by Isanka Wijerathne, are doing a great job of visualizing the current situation. 

Helping organizations adapt to COVID-19 

In our earlier article, we shared how companies in the tech industry were adopting remote working. There are several tools available for organizations looking to make this transition. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be a smooth one. It’s up to each organization to find an approach that suits them best as they prepare for COVID-19. 

COVID-19 | 99X Technology | SLASSCOM
The 99X Technology COVID-19 Action Center has several resources to help workplaces adapt to the novel coronavirus

Granted, it’s a complex challenge. Though the COVID-19 Action Center by 99X Technology, a software product engineering company headquartered in Sri Lanka, might serve as a helpful guide. One could describe it as an open-source encyclopedia for organizations seeking to adapt to this crisis. Here you’ll find several resources, which 99X Technology itself uses, covering a range of topics. They include procedures for working from home, preparing contingency plans, assisting sick employees, facilities management, and more. 

COVID-19 | SIXER Video | HR
To help HR departments continue conducting interviews, SIXER Video has made its platform freely available to everyone during the COVID-19 crisis.

Similarly, SIXER Video, a tech company in the HR industry, is also seeking to help. To that end, the company has made its recruitment platform free to use for the duration of the crisis. The platform allows interviews to be conducted remotely via video. By making its platform freely available, the company shared that it aims to encourage social distancing while allowing HR teams to continue conducting interviews remotely. 

Learning goes online in a quarantine

One of the most interesting jobs that have gone online during this outbreak is that of teachers. Just after the initial outbreak, Chinese teachers quickly turned to online teaching methods. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, schools were among the first institutions to shut down, giving students a rare month-long vacation. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean their learning has to come to a standstill. 

COVID-19 | STEPUp Academy | STEMUp Educational Foundation | STEM
The STEMUP Academy is an initiative that aims to encourage online learning

The internet is a treasure trove of learning materials. Locally, the STEMUp Educational Foundation, a local non-profit organization, launched two initiatives to encourage online learning. The first is the STEMUp Academy, which is a free community e-learning platform with content in both English and Sinhala. The second is a series of virtual coder dojos to teach kids how to code. 

A tale of giving to those in desperate need

A worrying trend of the COVID-19 outbreak has been panic buying. Not too long ago, we saw this in Sri Lanka as well. The danger of this phenomenon is that little is left on the shelves of supermarkets for others. Particularly those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

Stepping in to support the those most vulnerable to the virus was the Community Crisis Response Team, a local volunteer community group. Having gone viral on social media, they now deliver groceries and other essentials to the elderly, the sick & financially challenged, and those with weak immune systems. If you wish to support their efforts, be sure to get in touch with them. 

The chatbot from the WHO to answer your questions

Since the novel coronavirus first emerged, there was much confusion surrounding it. Unsurprisingly, a wave of misinformation followed. An all too common threat nowadays in our digital world. To tackle this, the WHO created a myth busters page on their website, to quite literally dispel common myths of COVID-19. 

COVID-19 | WHO | Whatsapp | Chatbot
The WHO recently launched a chatbot to answer some of the basic questions you may have about COVID-19 (Image credits: Business Insider)

Now, the organization has taken these efforts a step further. Recently, it also launched a chatbot on WhatsApp. Operating in the manner of a classic USSD app, the chatbot is remarkably effective at answering frequently asked questions (FAQ) about COVID-19. You can check it out by simply clicking here and saying, “Hi.” 

Social distancing made easy with gaming

Ever since we’ve been locked in and social distancing, we’ve been glued to our screens. Granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are entertained. However, for the gaming youth, Gamer.LK, a Sri Lankan eSports company, launched the Play From Home initiative in partnership with Sri Lanka Telecom. The initiative will see Gamer.LK hosting lobbies and streams of locally popular games. 

COVID-19 | Gamer.LK | SLT
To encourage social distancing, Gamer.LK announced the Play From Home initiative (Image credits: Gamer.LK)

Kicking off with PUBG Mobile, it’ll be expanding to include Minecraft, COD Mobile, Free Fire and Call of Duty 4. In a blog post, Gamer.LK stated, “With most of the world staying home, game platforms have seen record numbers of players logged on and playing games in the last few weeks. It’s no different in Sri Lanka.”

Staying connected in the middle of a crisis

In light of the current situation, the TRCSL announced that all operators have agreed to offer extra credit and talk time for prepaid customers. To get more details on this, the TRCSL has requested everyone to get in touch with their respective operators. Besides this, telecom operators have been running their own offers. 

Currently, among the local telecom operators, Hutch is offering a 25% discount on all Cliq data packages. Notably, these packages aimed at prepaid customers aren’t divided into day time and night time. Meanwhile, both Dialog Axiata and Mobitel are running offers to double your data with each data pack you purchase if you’re a postpaid customer. That means if you buy a 1GB data pack then you’ll get an additional 1GB free. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Telecom is offering unlimited data for it’s PEO TV app. 

You can reload your phone directly from the Helakuru app (Image credits: Helakuru)

Additionally, If you’re a Helakuru user, you can reload your prepaid phone connection via the app directly. Helakuru has also included a dedicated section on COVID-19 related info on the app, with the latest local COVID-19 updates sent through push notifications.

Just like we love receiving, we can also give back

While our daily lives have been disrupted, several organizations are trying to make things a little easier for everyone. Of course, this isn’t anything new. As seen during the floods of 2016 and 2017, we Sri Lankans can be a generous bunch when the need arises. Yet, while we love receiving, it’s also possible as individuals to give back. 

All it takes is a few simple actions. A great starting point would be supporting local businesses. Buy your groceries from the nearby kade. Get your buth packet for lunch from a local restaurant. If you have to head out and book a PickMe or Uber, then consider paying your driver in cash. 

For self-employed individuals earning a daily wage, even the tiniest unseen delays during a crisis can be catastrophic. This applies to any domestic workers you may have hired as well. Consider offering them a salary advance and paid holidays. If not, it’d be impossible for such individuals to practice social distancing. At the end of the day, small things matter. The small actions we take today as individuals could very well save us from a national disaster. 

Did we miss anything? Is there anything you’d like us to add? Let us know in the comments below.

By Arteculate

Arteculate is your guide to the Asian tech industry. We give you unparalleled insights, accurate, local tech news, thoughtful features and sometimes scathing opinions on where things are headed. Stay tuned for the best of Asia!

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