Evolve Team Series: CCT


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, including the way we work. The Evolve Team Series seeks to capture these changes and salute staff in navigating and adapting to remain productive in very trying circumstances. Tell us how your team as evolved (see details at end).

The Centre for Community Technolgies - on the frontline

Next up in our Evolve Team Series is the Centre for Community Technologies (CCT), located within the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology. The CCT aims to promote radical development of the human potential of particularly disadvantaged communities through the use of technology.

It is the aim of the CCT to promote policy interventions aimed at lowering market costs of technologies which hold significant prospects for social and economic empowerment of poor communities.

The team consists of 13 staff members, ranging from researchers and developers, e-skills facilitators, business analysts, multimedia specialists to digital skills facilitators and designers.

The team at the Centre for Community Technologies has developed the following since before lockdown started in March 2020:

  • The CCT was appointed as a roll-out and implementation partner for the HMS2 system in Government Hospitals in Port Elizabeth. HMS2 is an electronic Health Management System that allows hospital admission staff and medical professionals to capture patient data in electronic format, which can be accessed from anywhere, from any device, as long as they have an Internet connection. This reduces the amount of paper work significantly, as well as having immediate access to a patient’s health data. The CCT was also responsible for training all nursing staff and doctors on the use of the HMS2 system as well as the technical support thereof. With the resurgence of infections, the CCT is still involved at the Rev Dr EM Chabula Nxiweni Field Hospital.
  • Covid Trace - This mobile application was developed to assist the Contact Tracing Teams of the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape to trace and test people who were in contact with a confirmed  COVID-19 case.
  • As part of a collaboration between North West University and the CCT, the Centre took over the custodianship of the Yabelana app. Yabelana is a mobile application that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and the Apple iStore, free of charge. The app is an information sharing system that enables communities of all ages to identify a wide range of information, from healthcare and social services to councillors' contact details and events in the areas where they live. This proved to be very helpful, especially during the National State of Disaster lockdown period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CCT was involved with the preparation of training material and  context specific multimedia for the app, as well as the development of the national rollout programme to explore expansion of the application.
  • CareBuddy is a mobile application that was developed by the CCT to assist schools with the daily screening of learners at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The application has been rolled out to 5499 schools within the Eastern Cape and discussions are underway to roll the application out to more institutions. The system is able to capture 1.7 million records per day and can be monitored per school name or district.
  • The Find my Mojo mobile application was developed in a response to assist people dealing with mental health issues such as depression and the emotional toll and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. The app allows the user to track their moods and physical or social activity but also provides quick links to Call Centre numbers that deal with depression, stress, and anxiety.

What were the biggest hurdles that you had to overcome during lockdown? 

Some of the hurdles as a team include having to wear a face mask all the time, as some of our team members are claustrophobic, making this very challenging. The constant sanitising of everything brought from outside of the home, before bringing it into the home. Hand sanitisers also caused allergic reactions for some of us.

Working from home also brought new challenges and it was easy to feel isolated and depressed. On the other hand, we found that people totally ignore the boundaries between “office/business hours” and “private/family time”, putting you on call all the time.

Other hurdles include the anxiety not only for your own health and safety, but also that of our team who had to physically work at the field hospital as well as the people known to us who died and us having to check daily whether we are not displaying symptoms.

Another hurdle is dealing with the unknown. Will we still have jobs, will our income be halved, when will there be a vaccine and how do we go forward from here? It also placed enormous financial pressure on some of us due to family members who lost their jobs as result of the lockdown.

What new skills has your team learnt – as individuals and as a whole?

Using Powerpoint to create designs. Collaboration when performing tasks. New ways of communication technologies opened a whole new way of working and socialising. Participating in conferences, with hundreds of people all over the world online, presenting their research, can be done very successfully when well executed.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, well it took a pandemic for the world to pause and take stock.  The urgency of the pandemic brought about innovation at life’s speed.

With a concerted shift to digital operations, describe your new way of working?

Working from home has required us to use Skype daily and pay close attention to new tasks. The team interacts with each other on a regular basis, using different technology platforms, which they have learned to use.

Name the general advantages and improvements of your ‘new norm’ and identify some of those things you would like to retain going forward?

Working from home relaxes team members and allows them to work more efficiently, but it requires a lot of self-discipline as it is easy to get distracted. Some of our team members work better in a quiet area without distractions.

Flexi-hours give one a bit more freedom, especially when there is so much demand on your time.

Some of the apps that we developed, required us to work with developers in India. The whole process took three days and three Skype calls for the app to be ready for use. The reason for this is the efficiency of the people who worked on the project

What are your COVID-19 catch words? 

Self-reflection, understanding, compassion, new normal.

Share your Team’s Evolve story with us by responding to the above questions and capture shots of your team wherever they are working.