GovChat: 'Facebook wants control of South Africans' data and how it is used'

11 days ago

Local tech start-up GovChat has been granted interim relief by the Competition Tribunal against WhatsApp and Facebook, stopping its removal from the WhatsApp platform for a period of six months.

GovChat allows citizens to access a variety of South Africa's government services through its WhatsApp Business profile.

RELATED: GovChat aims to get more ordinary citizens in touch with government

WhatsApp and its parent company claim that GovChat is violating its terms of service.

In turn, GovChat says Facebook wants to deal directly with the government to offer similar services itself.

Saskia Falken gets the lowdown from GovChat CEO Eldrin Jordaan.

Journalists who were present at the GovChat launch in 2017 are asking questions about this development because they just don't understand it, he says.

What WhatsApp is now saying, first of all, is that GovChat is in breach of its terms. Secondly, it's saying we're not authorised to do the work that we are doing. We want to dispute that, fully!

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

Even though it was launched in 2017, GovChat is a co-created platform in partnership with the South African government. It started out with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, allowing South African citizens to engage with all 257 municipalities around municipal issues.

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, GovChat was able to adopt the technology to help both citizens and government respond, Jordaan notes.

The first feature was announced live by the president of South Africa on national TV! He stated that citizens can now - whether you're going to a private healthcare institution... or to a public institution like Groote Schuur - that you can get your Covid-19 test results from the GovChat platform.

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

The biggest GovChat feature in this scenario, however, is the digitisation of the social relief grant application for vulnerable citizens he says.

Those in need or distress are now able to get assistance from the government, which is that R350.

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

We saw well over 4 million applications come through the GovChat platform... What is a game changer is that no-one that applied for these grants needed to stand in a queue at Sassa... They could use their mobile phones...

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

Over the past ten months, Jordaan says, more than 5 million South Africans have used GovChat and it's processed well over 300 million messages.

He believes the issue at play here is the "phenomenal" growth and traction of the service.

This is not new for Facebook. It has also been taken on by its own government - 46 attorney-generals in the US have after 18 months of investigation have now decided to take on Facebook for the exact same thing, which is anti-competitive behaviour.

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

Facebook is allowing start-ups and third parties to build on their platform and then, later, once these platforms become successful, it wants to close them down.

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

It's about South Africans' data... and how it's used. Facebook wants control of that data...

Eldrin Jordaan, CEO - GovChat

For more detail, take a listen:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : GovChat: 'Facebook wants control of South Africans' data and how it is used'

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