“I wish those who don’t respect the rules could have a week of what I have.”
This is a direct quote from an Italian Covid-19 patient interviewed on Sky News last week. He is still suffering the effects of the disease a full four months after being clear of the Coronavirus and was imploring people worldwide to stop equating the pandemic with a bad case of the flu. It has lasting health effects beyond the initial infection and that’s reason enough to avoid Covid-19.
The best way to avoid infection is to stay at home as much as possible. Knowing this, why are we still seeing fellow South Africans throwing caution to the wind and maximising their time out-of-home by standing in queues at retailers to pay DSTV, Telkom and municipal accounts? Come on. And then we have the legions of people doing the Dischem shuffle by having their prescriptions filled in-store. Chemists have been delivering door-to-door for decades. Why can’t we get stay-at-home right?
I’ve been evangelising mobile technology for most of my working life and I’m here to remind you that South Africa is a world-leader in mobility. We have an absolutely vibrant mobile content and app development sector that is fully-supported by the country’s mobile network operators who are, in turn, some of the most innovative telcos globally. South Africa pioneered prepaid cellular, for example, and we had national mobile coverage when other countries were still battling to knit together a patchwork of mobile and analogue technologies.
Thank goodness South Africa was well into a hard lockdown when much of the developed world was still debating mask wearing and thank goodness South African consumers are served nationally by top-notch corporates and ICT firms. This means the tools to beat the Coronavirus are all there, ready for you and I.
Not downloading home shopping apps, getting medicines delivered at home and paying bills on mobile banking, for instance, is like letting the tongs sit idle while you try turn your chicken and chops with your fingers. You’re going to get burnt.
Ominous warnings aside, trust me, you’ll love the mobile life. Here’s some advice on using technology to get you started on staying at home, as much as possible:
The first step to staying safe at home during the current pandemic is divorcing the ATM and hooking up with immediate EFT payments using your bank’s mobile app. I’m sure all major banks now offer their clients the ability to add someone as an EFT beneficiary and to pay them immediately for an extra fee. Capitec’s immediate payment fee is R8. Standard Bank’s is now R50 I believe. Paying plumbers and anyone else with no settlement delay saves you a trip to the ATM and the sanitising and potential trouble that now involves.
Many of us have repeat monthly prescriptions so the next step to staying safe is to use a doctor that is happy to charge for telephone consults so scripts can be sent directly to the pharmacy. If you usually pay for your medicines yourself, ask if your pharmacy’s delivery driver is equipped with a card machine or if they will accept EFT payments. The card machine powered by a mobile SIM is super-convenient because pharmacies often miss one’s EFTs.
A third mobile technology-related tip for the current reality is to not only check if your local retailer does home deliveries in your area, but to figure out if the fee is a reasonable and easy to determine R35 (from Checkers), a slightly more robust R60 (from Pick n Pay) or impossible to figure out ahead of time because it may vary (Woolworths). Find out if they deliver in plastic bags, paper bags or paper boxes because I found the box option really inconvenient as they piled up.
Finally, start using your phone to pay a dedicated queuing service to renew your vehicle licenses. However, be warned, current online reviews indicate some of these services are – to put it mildly – all at sea with many documents not arriving. All is not lost, however, simply ask them to email you colour copies of the documents before couriering you the paper copies.
The secret to beating Covid-19 is to reduce your exposure to the outside world. The mobile phone is a wonderful shielding tool because it places a virtual you in front of the rest of humanity – please use it.
Devon Meerholz is chief creative and operations officer, IMImobile SA
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