With the success of their Android-based app, News24 has finally released an iOS version for the masses. The continued blackouts across the country meant that South Africans were feverishly browsing municipality websites for information on the schedule for that day. More often than not, these sites were not always very mobile-friendly, resulting in further frustration. When News24 first released their mobi-site in February this year, it solved quite a big problem in users searching for areas that weren’t always the easiest to locate the required information. The Android version was released later the same month, and with the added features including notifications and adding more than one location at any time, it quickly became a must-have. Now, after a few months of moans and groans from the Apple-based counterparts, News24 has released the iOS version, and within a week, became the number one free app to download on the iStore.
Gridwatch, the News24 mobi-site and app that has become the ubiquitous load-shedding daily planner for power-less South Africans, is now available to download on both iOS and Android. Gridwatch was first launched as a mobi-site on 5 February and then as a free app for Android later that month. The iOS app went live on 11 June and within 2 days of launch, has reached the _top free app_ rank in the SA iTunes store.
Gridwatch’s popularity is due to the powerful user tool that allows a “search and save” of customised locations that provides businesses and individuals alike with the ability to plan around the times that Eskom takes down the power.
“We’ve built the biggest load-shedding database in South Africa,” says Head of Product Development at 24.com, Cathryn Reece. “The Eskom schedules are disaggregated across municipalities which meant that South Africans struggled to find their local and national schedules and to plan for outages.”
With a direct link to Eskom, so that Stage levels are accurately reported, and a full set of Eskom schedule updates once a week, News24 is able to keep in sync with schedules for those customers supplied directly by Eskom. Municipal schedules are updated manually, as and when new documentation is released.
“Initially we had to source every schedule available, and then manually collate the data into a format that our developers could use,” says Reece. “The daily updates from the Media Desk are then manually captured to ensure that we have a daily picture of what is happening, which is the most essential function for most users. Users can also report missing areas, schedules or technical errors directly to News24”.
Gridwatch is the only app that allows for customised alerts for all saved locations. “We’ve invested a tremendous amount of human resource and technology into speeding up our push alerts so that users get real time information about load-shedding,” says Reece. With over 340 000 app users daily (Apple and Android) and over 2 million screen views in total, the app continues to climb the popularity ladder. “As a nation, we’ve had to accept that the reality of load-shedding is here to stay for a while. News24 developed Gridwatch to help South Africans plan as much as possible around this very disruptive challenge.
We will continue to focus on developing technology that meets today’s information needs and to keep it accessible and accurate,” concludes Lisa MacLeod, General Manager, Digital Publishing.