By Mugendi Kangichu
A famous saying goes; Necessity is the mother of invention. And this is what ran through the mind of Amos Munene when he learned that the world was full of fake news.
Munene would hear people sharing information only to find it was not true something that angered him a lot making him think of a way to counter the same and save many people who may fall victim to trusting the fake news.
It is no secret that until now the world is full of lies especially now that the universe is battling the existence of Corona Virus largely referred to as the COVID-19.
“The existence of fake news and especially those that concern prominent people and institutions made me think of coming up with this application—TextSMSAPP, as I have named it.
You find that people fake, for instance, death of famous people or share fake information about employment in some companies and people fall victim of such and at times lose their hard-earned money,” he says.
The era of COVID-19, he adds, is full of fake news concerning the course, symptoms, and curative measures something that has compelled many institutions to use my application to ensure people, especially their members, get the right information instantly.
The 38-year-old Munene who hails from Nduuri village of Runyenjes Constituency, Embu County says the application requires one to just have a mobile phone that would work as a medium for displaying information.
He says the App can facilitate seamless sending of educative materials and instant information to an unlimited number of people through text messages to their phones.
Munene explains that the system does not require the use of a smartphone, so any person with even a basic phone would receive the broadcasts and can send feedback to the same number at no extra pay.
“The institution or the person who wishes to install the application to counter fake news about his company, work, institution, or product is the only one that requires a smartphone from which the messages will be controlled and sent,” he explains.
Joseph Ngwasi, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Chairman says union in Embu County is among the institutions using the application saying the mobile App is working effectively. He is also the Secretary-General KNUN, Embu County.
Ngwasi says they embraced the use of the TextSMSAPP technology three years ago and have been passing information to their members effectively.
“For example, we have been passing information concerning COVID-19 to members within the county regardless of the area they are in provided that they have subscribed,” says Ngwasi.
Munene reveals among his customer base are churches, County Assemblies, and Colleges across the country.
He says the Ministry of Health and the County government can also embrace the use of the application that only costs less than Sh100, 000. “It’s purchased once and you are good to go,” he notes.
Munene is an Information Technology (IT) expert who studied at Mount Kenya University. However, he notes that he perfects his art of developing an application through online training.
“Also, I have a friend overseas whom I work closely with to develop the application,” he says adding that he had another App in the run-up to the August 8, 2017, general election, which enabled candidates to reach the electorate. He says he refined that App further to arrive at the latest one.
To enroll to receive the messages, a person just writes (0019 their name) and sends it to a certain number and their phone number is entered in the system.
According to the developer, the public receives the messages free of charge while the institution sending the broadcasts incurs costs on bulk SMSs usually charged by mobile telephone companies.
The institution which subscribes to the App will incur a one-off fee of between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000 depending on the level of customization of the system that they prefer, with Njeru saying several county governments have expressed interest in it.
He says even after the pandemic, the platform would still be useful in broadcasting health messages to the general public that the institution has in its broadcast.
The App is protected from abuse since only the main user can communicate to people in his network-downward communication, which curbs the spread of fake news or unverified information.