The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred volunteer action the world over, as social distancing and lockdown measures threaten vulnerable communities. In Israel, the government turned to the tech community for some support.
Wix, the website creation service, responded with a web app that is now being offered to governments around the world at no charge. The COVID-19 Volunteer Call System—which connects volunteers with citizens in need of assistance—is currently in use in Israel.
“The technology was just recently offered to governments around the world, so we are excited to continue using it and growing within Israel to demonstrate the potential. Our pilot programs will serve as a case study as governments around the world take notice,” Nir Zohar, Wix president & COO, tells NoCamels.
From the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israelis responded with social action initiatives aimed at helping pockets of the population with day-to-day life in self-isolation and quarantine.
“Israel has a deep-rooted culture of mutual responsibility with the goal of prioritizing and helping those in need of assistance. This ideal, paired with our centralized government, inspired us to innovate and offer a technology powered solution to connect willing volunteers with those in need,” Zohar says.
The three-part app comprises a volunteer application, online call center, and report monitoring.
It helps match volunteers with requests for delivery of groceries and medical supplies to performing home services.
“Helping those who are unable to leave their home and are in critical need of food, medical supplies, and home services is the top priority for our country,” says Zohar. “Our unrivaled technology that helps the global business community can now be harnessed for the greater good of our country and world. This is, by far, one of the most meaningful ventures we have pursued. Our hope is that this platform will go beyond our country’s borders and help governments around the globe meet the needs of their citizens.”
So far, a European NGO expressed interest in the system, and upon writing this article, talks were underway to install it.
“The system is currently offered in English and Hebrew. As other languages and countries request, we will roll out additional translations based on need,” says Zohar.
The online Volunteer Call System is the latest example of Israeli entrepreneurs taking one tech solution and using it for another purpose.
Using the Corvid web development platform, it took a team of 20 Wix employees just one week to develop the web app after the government request.
Here’s how it works: Volunteers register and undergo a validation check, which can be integrated with government databases. Once approved, volunteers can immediately begin serving their community.
The call center, or volunteer dashboard, is where volunteers respond to requests for assistance. The system is integrated with technology from Twilio, a San Francisco-based cloud communications platform, that keeps communication between volunteers and citizens safe and secure.
“During a pandemic, like COVID-19, connecting vulnerable populations with existing support and resources quickly can save lives,” Erin Reilly, Twilio chief social impact officer, said in a press statement. “Wix spun up this platform in record time to respond to the urgent need in Israel. We look forward to continued collaboration with them to help ensure that governments have access to the scalable communications technology they need to support the people they serve.”
The system also includes a reporting dashboard where government officials can pull reports at any time. This feature allows users to track how many people have been helped.
In the first three days of operation, the online Volunteer Call System helped over 11,000 at-risk individuals by providing food, medical supplies, and other home services. The initiative is expected to help some one million Israeli citizens in its pilot program.
In Israel, a new normal is underway and the country is opening up.
Schools are back in session, public transportation is on the go, museums are open to the public, even theater halls are raising the curtain.
These measures may seem unreal to many in North America, South America, Africa, parts of Europe, and Asia, where social distancing and shuttered businesses are still very much a part of the norm.
“As long as the system is needed, we are excited to maintain it as an operational and free service to benefit society and the greater good,” Zohar tells NoCamels.
This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.