The outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted our lives drastically, and it is a tough time for everyone. The vulnerable populations were asked to self-isolate at home, and the rest were asked to follow social distancing measures.

Prolonged periods of self-quarantine not only impacts our mental health but also our social health. Video conferencing tools and social media apps help to connect people, however, not everyone has access to these apps or internet connection.

Inspired by penpal, we would like to build an app to foster social connections during these tough times, targeting the vulnerable populations that are less tech savvy. By sign up via programmed phone calls, users will be paired randomly. Instead of writing letters, users can text each other via SMS to reduce the risk of transmission.

What it does

  1. Sign up phone numbers distributed via community centres/ partnering with delivery companies

  2. Interested individuals can sign up through programmed phone calls

  3. Individuals are paired up by the system

How we built it

  • Interactive voice response & SMS bot using Twilio

  • Database using Firebase

Challenges we ran into

Some of our members have no experience in APIs and integrations, we spent a lot of time learning how to link Twilio to Firebase. Thanks to this guide

We are an international team with developers in different timezones, not all developers are awake at the same time. We overcame this with effective communication and planning.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We built a functional app!

What we learned

We learnt a lot about conversational design and IVR, and APIs

What's next for SMS PenPal

  • mask phone numbers for privacy

  • a matching system by interest/ location

Share this project: