What do you do when you find your country amidst a crisis, leaving many of its residents without basic products like flour, milk, or toilet paper?
If you're José Augusto Montiel, a young engineering student from the city of Maracaibo in Venezuela, you create an app called Abastéceme [es], meaning “Supply Me”.
Montiel debuted Abastéceme in 2013 with the goal of building a social network that mapped the locations of Venezuela's residents offering extra supplies of basic goods so those in need would have an easy way of finding them.
Venezuela has struggled with food shortages in recent years, and experts have pointed the finger at price controls, lack of funds, a decrease in agricultural production and a reliance on food imports as the cause. Some Venezuelans also resell government-subsidized food on the black market. When the app was introduced in 2013, the country's most populous state, Zulia, had just begun a system of rationing the sale of 20 basic items, including toilet paper, to combat food smuggling, according to Hispanic news site VOXXI.
Last year, Social Tech Guide reported that Abastéceme was helping “thousands of needy Venezuelans get their toilet paper”. Since then, it has grown exponentially and crossed over to other countries. Montiel spoke about the app's progress:
Abastéceme ha seguido creciendo en numero de usuarios, alcanzando casi los 40 mil usuarios tan sólo en su versión móvil. Con la adición de su versión Web se fortaleció aun más la plataforma, permitiéndole aun más personas el acceso a la misma, sin importar su status socioeconómico, lo cual es lo más importante para mí.
Abastéceme has continued to grow in number of users, reaching almost 40,000 users in its mobile version alone. With the addition of its online version [es], the platform received even more of a boost, providing even more people with access to it regardless of their socio-economic status, which is the most important thing for me.
Montiel explained people have started checking the app before going to the supermarket. Milk was by far the most popular product that users seek out, he said.
Regarding Abastéceme's reach, he added:
La mayoría de sus usuarios se siguen situando en la zona central del país, en especial Caracas. Desde el comienzo, Abastéceme ha estado disponible en otros países, su única limitante es que sólo puedes localizar productos en un perímetro no mayor a 100 km, lo cual es mucho.
Most users continue to be situated in the country's central zone, especially Caracas. Abastéceme has been available in other countries from the beginning. It's only limitation is that you can only locate products within a radius of no more than 100 km, which is a lot.
Montiel continues to develop the application today and has new goals for its future, including making it available on more mobile platforms. Currently, it is accessible on Android and Blackberry devices.
Mi gran empeño es por poder llevar Abastéceme a los dispositivos Apple, y espero lograrlo antes que termine el 2014.
My big challenge is to be able to carry Abastéceme over to Apple devices, which I hope to achieve before the end of 2014.
In addition to Abastéceme, Montiel is also working on a project called Beatwagon, a streaming platform similar to Pandora dedicated entirely to independent artists and bands. He hopes it will become the place people come to for the latest music.