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SOSmap Becomes Virtual Bridge Between Those in Need and Those Who Can Give

After two weeks of expedited development, a new mobile application called SOSmap has become a bridge between those in need and those who can give in Vietnam. So far, the initiative has helped channel dozens of tons of food and other necessities to 3,000 households facing hardships due to the pandemic.

In the current COVID-19 outbreak, many residents of Saigon and people across Vietnam are finding it unexpectedly challenging to procure food due to local shortages. For disadvantaged families where the breadwinners have lost their jobs, fulfilling even the most basic needs is even tougher.

The assistance application and website SOSmap was born in such a dire context, aiming to streamline the donation process by directly connecting donors with those who actually need help. The project was undertaken by tech firm XTEK in collaboration with the Vietnam Women's Union; the Institute of Science, Technology and Rural Development; and a women’s union under the Ministry of Public Security.

The app’s interface features a Google Maps API and two options to those who want to “donate” or are “in need.” Users can then fill in the amount of items they can give away or are seeking.

When the volume of donation is large (up to four tons), donors can pick transportation options to SOSmap’s centralized warehouse in downtown Saigon. Items will be distributed fairly by volunteers to those who need them. After donation or request entries are successfully accepted by the system, they will appear on the map as red dots (receiver), orange dots (donor), and green dots (successful delivery).

In an interview with Saigoneer, Phạm Thanh Vi, the founder of XTEK, explained that he values the application of technology in optimizing the process of charity giving. “After a charity trip to Quang Binh last year, I observed that the gift-giving was not efficient, so there were cases in which amounts given did not match actual need,” he explains. “SOSmap, incorporating a clean interface, will hopefully solve the lack of follow-up information, so donors will know whether what they gave away actually reaches the underprivileged or not.”

A volunteer delivers goods to an elderly woman. Photo via Tuổi Trẻ.

The first version of the map was developed in October 2020. After the COVID-19 pandemic flared up again this year, the team spent three consecutive days upgrading features to match the current situation. Bug fixing and optimization have been carried out over the past few weeks since its launch too.

With just a glance at the map, one can observe that the amount of red dots has only grown, peppered across Saigon’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. According to Vi, each request usually represents the needs of an entire family or even an alley. Meanwhile, orange dots are few and far between. Still, he explained that each good Samaritan usually contributes bulk amounts, so there is still enough for many households. For instance, SOSmap recently received 12 tons of rice from Ninh Thuan farmers to help families in Saigon, in addition to many other contributions from all over the nation.

Red dots represent those in need while green dots are successful past deliveries.

The biggest hurdle that the team faces is a manpower shortage. Vi says that, with ever-rising numbers of requests, the current group can only handle 10% of the workload, so they need help from the community. Still, SOSmap shares that they will welcome several groups of volunteers in the near future to help with distribution and transportation.

Individuals and organizations can opt to become a volunteer in the “program information” section of the app. After getting their personal particulars verified and health checked, aspiring volunteers can access the interface for internal staff.

Vi adds that the work of SOSmap is supported by local governments. The developers are hoping to expand the project to more localities in Vietnam to help more people, and are seeking to get volunteers vaccinated to ensure that their operations can take place in the safest environment.

[Images courtesy of SOSmap]