In Ethiopia, three young men and their company, Ewenet Communication, have developed Debo, a contact-tracing mobile phone app. Because people can spread COVID-19 while having no signs of being sick, the infection can spread so fast that it outpaces conventional contact tracing.
With that in mind, Debo uses a Bluetooth “handshake” to communicate with nearby phones. This captures the identity of anyone who comes within 2 meters of the phone’s user as part of the contact-tracing strategy should one of them test positive later.
Ewenet also developed a website to inform people about COVID-19 and a call-center management system to answer the public’s questions about the virus through the nation’s 8335 phone number.
With an estimated 14 million smartphone users, Ethiopia has leaned heavily on mobile technology in its campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Mobile phones play jingles reminding people to wash their hands and wear face masks. Mobile phone networks carry religious services, letting the faithful worship remotely.
We Can Build Our Youth for the Future
Three young Ethiopian men have teamed up to start the Ewenet Communication Private Limited Company and have introduced Debo, an Android-based contact-tracing cellphone app to track COVID-19 cases.
Addis Alemayehu is founder and general manager. Mikiyas Teshome is a software developer and vice manager/co-founder. Natnael Mahetem is a software developer and co-founder. ADF conducted an email interview with the men. The interview has been edited to fit this format.
ADF: When did you start Ewenet? What made you decide to start the company?
EWENET: Ewenet was established with a heartfelt promise made by the three of us to make a difference, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of many Ethiopians and African youths through technology. We did not start Ewenet because of COVID-19, but we are the first startup company to volunteer to join the effort to stop the spread of the virus in Ethiopia, and still we are working.
We are living in the digital age and information era where technology makes our lives easy or difficult. The way we collect, organize, analyze and interpret data will determine our success, whether we are individuals, companies or government. People prefer that information comes in the best way possible on their fingertips in a cost-effective and efficient way.
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