The #KibarBenderaPutih movement has gained momentum since the announcement of the latest MCO extension on June 28, 2021. Companies and individuals alike have been lending a hand providing basic essentials like rice, oil, bread, flour, etc. to the doorsteps of those in need, following the sighting of physical white flags.
On June 4, Malaysian student volunteers Sidharrth Nagappan, Cornelius Pang, and Shaun Mak launched the Bendera Putih App (now called Sambalsos.com) to crowdsource reports of white flags and food bank locations around the country. This is meant to streamline the process of connecting those in need to those who can help, which was formerly done via Whatsapp and phone calls.
A map for help
Upon entering the site, you’ll be asked to log in with your Google account before you’re shown a country map of Malaysia with icons highlighting white flags and food banks. Sidharrth clarified that login details currently are required for authentication to control the server’s API requests.
Dictionary Time: An API (Application Programming Interface) is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. In other words, an API is the messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you’re requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you.MuleSoft.
“We have implemented the login feature in order to discourage bots or spam reports on the platform, as we found that by requiring login it is a way to prevent spam reports on the platform,” the team told Vulcan Post.
Users can click on either icon to get more information about the location and its real-time address. To ask for help or report white flags, users must attach an image of the premise, input its address, and provide additional remarks like phone numbers or the exact supplies needed.
The app’s latest update mentions that pictures will be reviewed by the team to ensure there is no privacy breach. If you’ve enabled your location services, the site can detect it automatically, much like how you’d send your live location on Whatsapp.
While such details are beneficial in providing direct aid to those in need of it, it does open the app up to scrutiny over security concerns. Individuals now have their approximate (or exact) locations exposed, making them vulnerable to potential malicious intent.
However, the first priority of this app is to connect users who need help to those who can extend it, and vice versa, in the most convenient way. Therefore, users of the app should practice responsibility while using it, whether they’re sharing their locations or viewing the locations of those in need.
That sentiment was shared by the team too, who said, “We have decided that in this case, it is more important to let others discover those who are in need, who may be near their location. We believe that this situation will enable the subjects to get support from other users who are nearby in an easier manner.”
Sidharrth elaborated, “All requests go through verification before being displayed. We verify using the photo and location. All reports also expire after a week automatically. There is admittedly a tradeoff, but we believe photo and location verification and a strict upload policy will help reduce issues.”
The food banks highlighted on the web app are directly sourced from Google Maps. Though most of those currently listed on Bendera Putih App are located within Klang Valley, the developers are working to crowdsource more names via an upcoming Google Sheets file on the page.
By Malaysians, for Malaysians
The site’s developers are hoping to make Bendera Putih App an open-source app so the developer community can work together and improve it, according to Sidharrth in a Facebook post.
Version 1 of the Bendera Putih App was created using React.js and Firebase, platforms to help make the process of developing apps quicker. “Once it’s out there, we are hoping to write a Node.js API to streamline the data onto a solid web view,” added Sidharrth.
More features and functionality will be added to Bendera Putih App, such as the ability to mark white flag reports with an “Up-Vote” or “Supported”. On the current app, these features are visible but do not work yet.
More than just a movement
The 3 student developers have been working on this web app for the past week, which took them 4 days to bring from ideation to public release.
For the site to be released ASAP, its team skipped many early-stage processes of the development cycle, hence the many bugs that followed upon its launch. One notable problem was the difficulty some users had when logging in, where the webpage wouldn’t load up.
To solve this, Sidharrth recommended clearing the browser’s cache. “After that, we experienced incredible growth on the platform, leading us to rebrand to make the app’s scope wider and more sustainable,” he said.
As of July 6, the Bendera Putih App has been rebranded to Sambalsos.com to expand the scope of the app beyond being just a movement. Apart from its name, everything works exactly the same. Additionally, the old Bendera Putih site will redirect automatically to this.
Editor’s Update 07/07/21: Parts of this article have been edited to add responses and explanations from Sambalsos.com’s team and to clarify the name change of the site.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post