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#Hack4Covid: And the Winners are…..

OpenParlyZW hosted a Virtual Hackathon (#Hack4Covid) from the 27th to 30th of April, where young web developers aged 18 to 35 years took part in trying to come up with cost effective tools that could help reach as many people as possible with COVID-19 information.

#Hack4Covid attracted about 77 teams, composed of 150 participants who signed from various cities across Zimbabwe (Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Mutare and Chinhoyi).

The Hackathon saw 25 projects being submitted by the participants and from that number three projects were judged to be the best and won US$1000 each and have their apps added to the CovidZW dashboard.

Below are a summary of 3 winning solutions in no particular order:

1-Close Contact Tracing App

Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe is having challenges in trying to trace and locate close contacts of people who would have been diagnosed of COVID-19 due to lack of resources and also unavailability of data that can link them. However, the Close Contact Tracing App is seeking to help address that challenge by automatically compiling a database of a person’s close contact which can become handy in tracking them.

How it works:

The user installs the application in his/her phone and authenticates with his/her phone which will be stored in the database. After authentication, the user is prompted to enter his/her device Bluetooth address (instructions are provided on the App). After this procedure, the user is also prompted to switch on the devices GPS location services and also Bluetooth services.

Once this is done, the App will start searching for nearby Bluetooth devices, if the App finds any nearby devices it checks the devices Bluetooth address if it is registered in the database. If the address is registered, it will be stored including the user’s phone number as a close contact in the database and these details are displayed in the Admin dashboard.

Close Contact Tracking App:

2-All things AI: ChatBot

Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on the 11th of March after it had spread across the world, the need to give information and dispel myths has become more than necessary.

While both international and local news channels have tried to play their part in disseminating of information about COVID-19, there still remains a lot of people who are not reached, hence their reluctance to abide by measures being put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Most of the people have questions but news channels only make announcements a development which leaves confused and still unable to know what to do to protect themselves.

However, to address this challenge, one of the participating team at the #Hack4Covid (All things AI) has developed a Chatbot that answers any question about COVID-19 be it from a global perspective or a local perspective.

How it works

The Bot does not require any hard and fast commands for it to offer a solution. Users just type in a question in any format and the Bot is capable of extracting contextual meaning and give an answer. With regards to information on COVID-19 cases, the Bot extracts its formation in real-time from the John Hopkins Centre.

Some of the questions that can be answered by the Bot include but not limited to:

Latest numbers of cases globally or in any country of your choice, How COVID-19 spreads, What is quarantine and why it is important, Who is at high risk, Information on face masks, When should one go for testing and How the virus affects people with chronic conditions among many others.


This Bot can be deployed on many channels for example websites and even on Facebook among other platforms.


3-Bit Souls: WhatsApp Bot

With the ever-increasing cost of data, access to information is slowly turning into a preserve of the few privileged members of society while the majority are being forced to become bystanders.

Due to lockdown restrictions which have literally confined the majority of the citizens at their homes, most people are having to struggle to go to hospitals to get checked by their doctors as in most cases they will not be having exemption letters and transport is still scarce. However, All things AI have developed a WhatsApp based Bot can help people chat with health practitioners without having to travel to hospitals.

WhatsApp is the widely used social media platform especially in Africa and it is also less expensive in terms of data compared to other platforms.

The WhatsApp Le Bot only allows people to chat to with health practitioners but it also provides COVID-19 related information.


The aim to help users suffering from anxiety attacks and psychological effects talk to health practitioners to clear their doubt without risking spreading or contracting the virus whilst travelling to see a doctor.

The other aim is to help reach a larger population since WhatsApp is the default social media platform that is used by every age group across the globe at low cost since most countries are in lockdown which has affected the economic standing of people.

WhatsApp Le Bot:

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is the news editor for OpenParlyZW an online platform that covers Parliament of Zimbabwe activities using social media (Twitter and Facebook). He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum and a board member of Digital Communication Network.

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