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A new online tool created by the company that developed San Antonio’s 311 app is helping local governments manage the coronavirus pandemic.
The co-founders of Cityflag, which rebranded to Irys earlier this year, launched the COVID-19 Support App just weeks after the pandemic began shutting down Texas cities. The free app allows users to connect to local COVID-19 resources and learn more about the virus.
The Latino entrepreneurs leading Irys – CEO Alberto “Beto” Altamirano, COO Alberto Gomez, and CFO Eduardo Bravo – created the COVID-19 Support App after noticing small and middle-sized cities lacked an in-house technology team to enhance the response to the pandemic’s challenges.
The app has several features, including informing citizens about free testing near them, showing the location of COVID-19 resources such as masks, hand sanitizer, or food, and providing a way to report large illegal gatherings. All of this is accomplished with the COVID-19 Support App’s six-button interface. The information is then collected in a dashboard that is free for any municipality to use. The dashboard can be configured to report information from a specific city to that city’s leaders, Irys spokesman Montserrat Chavez said.
Gomez said his team started developing the COVID-19 Support App after cities began mandating citizens to stay home and places of business close. The launch came together in just a couple of weeks.
“We collaborated with the cities that we already had a relationship with, but also we were able to add a lot more cities through a partnership that we established with a national organization that promotes the digital transformation of cities in Mexico,” Gomez said.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District doesn’t currently use the dashboards created by Irys for its own data, according to Metro Health spokeswoman Michelle Vigil, but Irys has supported the City of San Antonio’s outreach efforts for COVID-19 resources via the 311SA Mobile App, Chavez said.
The COVID-19 Support App can be accessed on a smartphone or computer web browser in the U.S. and Mexico.
City and municipal entities utilizing the app include the state of New Jersey, the Texas cities of Mission and Hidalgo, and 23 other small municipalities in the Rio Grande Valley, Altamirano said. In Mexico, the state of Nayarit, Mexico City, and Mexicali also use it.
“We gave [cities that were interested] access to a dashboard, and through this dashboard they were able to see all the different requests that people were making through the app,” Gomez said. “They could then get this information, download a report, and take it to the [city’s] health department.”
In addition to the features listed above, users also can report price gouging on items such as food, medicine, lodging, supplies, and any other items that have become scarce during the pandemic. Additional functionality allows people to request donations of money or goods for themselves or others, Gomez said.
Since its launch, more than 5,000 users have used the COVID-19 Support Tool solution, Chavez said.
Even though the City doesn’t use Irys’ newest app, the Latino entrepreneurs are proud of their roots in San Antonio, and wanted to be plugged into the community. That’s why, Gomez said, the group moved its operation to the West Side earlier this summer.
“In the world of venture capital, a Latino startup is rare,” Gomez said. “We want to offer our expertise and to speak to the community about the opportunity of exploring this world of entrepreneurship.”