Venezuelans who devote hours scouring supermarkets for increasingly scarce food basics and toilet paper have just received some digital help thanks to a young software developer, who may just have the tool to help them through this tough time.
Written by Jose Augusto Montiel, a free application for mobile devices called Abasteceme (translated to “Supply Me”) lets people notify one another about where flour, sugar, milk, cooking oil and toilet paper are for sale. The app is Android-based and relies on Google Maps for geolocation. It leverages what is known in the tech world as crowdsourcing, with users notifying one another where a certain product is for sale.
It has been downloaded more than 12,000 times.
Crowdsourcing to help Venezuela through rationings
This app comes at a time when Venezuela’s most populous state, Zulia, has just implemented rationings and restrictions on the sale of 20 basic items including toilet paper. As a result of the rationings, inventory of basic items such as wheat flour and butter have depleted throughout the country.
Abasteceme’s translated description on the Google Play store:
Find and share the location of the most sought after staples! Abasteceme is a social platform that allows us to share the location of Venezuelan staples like oil, sugar, flour, powdered milk and toilet paper.
When a person adds the location of the product to our database this was reflected in the map within Abasteceme and will automatically be shared with all our users. Abasteceme also allows product search based on distance and price of the same type.
Economists blame government-imposed price controls, while President Nicolas Maduro says greedy merchants are hoarding goods, according to The Guardian.
“From what I’ve seen so far it’s mostly toilet paper, followed by flour,” Montiel said about what gets posted most.
Montiel, the 21-year-old chemical engineering student in the western city of Maracaibo, said most of Abasteceme’s users were in Caracas when he first made the app available on the Google Play website on May 29, 2013.
“But now it has spread all over the country,” he said.
He said it’s been overwhelming keeping the server that hosts the application from crashing and attending to users, who he says are clamoring for him to include more products.
“People are asking for chicken, butter and soap above all,” he said. Montiel said he also deletes a lot of entries when people notify him that supplies of a certain product have sold out. The program is designed to automatically erase notifications in two hours, he added.
Montiel stated he has no help beyond his sister, who assists with the program’s aesthetics.
“I’m also working to develop it for the Blackberry as a lot of people have them in Venezuela,” he said.
He wants to work on an iPhone version but can’t afford a Mac to do that and is just earning enough to cover costs as it is.
Based on Associated Press reporting.