Through an app, worshippers can now book space in a church service

A cameraman captures images of service at Foursquare Church in Kimironko for live streaming on Sunday, August 2. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva

On the weekend between Friday, July 17 and Sunday 19, religious believers were filled with joy after government had just okayed reopening of places of worship.

It had been more than three months of no gatherings in all places of worship.

 

Unfortunately, many worshipers were turned back as early birds occupied all the seats which had been reduced in observance of physical distancing measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

 

For instance, at Regina Pacis Catholic church in Remera where a journalist of this paper visited, most of those who had turned up for the Sunday service returned home without attending any of the two morning services.

 

The church had to improvise a third Mass in the evening.

However, thanks to a team of religious software developers, the issue is soon to be knocked down as people continue to adjust and getting comfortable under the new normal.

Pie Masomo and his colleagues at Rock Software Solutions Ltd have built a mobile app which will allow visitors of worship places to reserve seats in advance.

This, he explained, will end queues worshippers endured as they waited for the volunteers to pen down all required information in the attendance register, as well as minimise chances for human contact stringently discouraged by Covid-19 prevention directives.

How the app works

The app uses short code or USSD, giving access to both smartphone users as well as those who possess feature phones.

Its system is two-fold; phase one involves self-registration while the second is about booking which service to attend.

By dialing *810*100#, the first-time user is required to register oneself. You have to feed in your name before the system takes you through a series of prompts to record your residence, from province to village.

At this stage, you are also asked to choose your place of worship from a list of those that subscribed to the system.

The system is smart enough that it identifies whether you are using it for the first time or not.

After registration, the user has to dial the same code to book a seat at a preferred place.

Here, you can also book seats for other people who do not have access to the platform by registering their name and filling out their particulars.

But that person must be aged twelve or above, as per the government guidelines which stipulates that those below that cannot enter a place of worship.

When you confirm your request, you receive a code which you present at the church for verification.

If your place of worship has not been allowed to resume service, or the seats are booked out, you are notified. Interestingly, the app shows you the number of remaining seats.

On the other end, churches received the data in real-time.

However, one downside of the app is that one cannot book a service at any time. Different churches have different times where the system lets you confirm your booking.

The app allows you to cancel your reservation or change your address or place of worship.

Masomo said places of worship can use the platform free of charge for the next three months.

Currently, six places of worship – all churches – are available on the app but according to him, the system can accommodate as many as possible.

Masomo told The NewTimes that the team would meet with the inter-religious forum leadership this past weekend to ensure more places of worship enlist.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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