Zimbabweans do not an introduction to WhatsApp. If you have internet access to be reading this article, there is a very high chance you use the free messaging app.
The application has grown in popularity around the world to a point where over 1 billion people use it. If you have internet access, the app is free to use and it is user friendly too.
We use the app for different reasons, from keeping in touch with old friends from Primary School to responding to customer queries at work. However, with those many people using the app we are seeing more and more people solving problems in their communities with the app.
We saw the Central Jakarta Immigration Department in Indonesia introduce a new registration management system where passport applicants can reserve queue numbers via WhatsApp back in August. We implored our own Immigration Department and our banks to copy the solution, maybe they are still ironing out the kinks.
Ambulance doctors in Buenos Aires, the capital city, are using WhatsApp speed up treatment of their patients. More than 42000 heart attacks occur in Argentina every year and to help in the treatment of those people they decided to assess if utilising WhatsApp could lead to a reduced mortality rate.
The ambulance doctors send diagnostic electrocardiograms (ECGs) directly to a hospital’s catheterisation (cath) lab when ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is the diagnosis, allowing heart attack patients to bypass the emergency department. Basically using WhatsApp with it’s instant messaging feature, cheap and encrypted, to notify the hospital that a patient is coming and have preparations made accordingly.
What used to happen was that a heart attack patient was transported to the hospital and then would have ECG diagnosis of STEMI in the emergency room. With WhatsApp, patients are getting the ECG diagnosis of STEMI in their homes or wherever they were when the heart attack occurred and the ECG is transmitted using WhatsApp to a cardiologist at the hospital to confirm the diagnosis and prepare the cath lab.
It will come as no surprise that the study has shown conclusively that utilising WhatsApp in such a manner led to quicker treatment times, lower mortality rates and quicker discharges.
They plan to roll out the procedure to more hospitals.
Despite WhatsApp being ubiquitous in this country we are not seeing many solutions utilising the app. What we have seen are businesses getting on board and liaising with their customers via the app and with the soon to launch WhatsApp Business we will see more of that.
Solutions that solve everyday problems for everyday people like ourselves have not been forthcoming. The reasons for this are varied but most of the decision makers in the corporate world or in public service just do not see WhatsApp as a tool that can be utilised for anything meaningful.
I say this because after we published the article imploring banks to use WhatsApp to deal with the long queues problem a developer reached out to us. He said he had come up with such a solution and had approached the banks but there was no interest.
The Zimbabwean government no longer has that view of WhatsApp as a promiscuity tool but are now fully aware of its power. They however see it as a nuisance and appointed a national WhatsApp group admin in Chinamasa to try to deal with that power.
It is scary to think that the government could be thinking about banning WhatsApp, the comments that they are looking to China and Russia for solutions indicate that they are indeed thinking about that. That would be a shame because WhatsApp offers so many opportunities for problem solving.
We do not have the exact same problems Argentina or Indonesia have but we can learn from them and utilise what we have already and not wait for new platforms to bring new solutions.
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