New website seeks to stop the spread

New website seeks to stop the spread

A Verona resident has developed an online community assistance system to connect volunteers with vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farhan Ahmad, a former Epic Systems employee, has a background in computer science and works from home full-time as the vice president of technology for Alabama-based EBSCO Information Services. That background assisted him when he made the decision to launch his website cv19assist.com in April.

Ahmad said he noticed there weren’t a lot of user-friendly options for people stuck at home to navigate the technological complexities of online services. That led him to create a website that connects people needing help with tasks like grocery shopping and obtaining medications to volunteers willing to do it for them. He said this helps those most vulnerable to limit their exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“When this all started, I was struggling with ‘what can I do?’ There are so many things that could be done,” Ahmad said. “Being 36 years old, I am in the lower risk group, so I felt a responsibility to be doing something. This came to mind and aligned with knowledge and skills that I have.”

Ahmad said there are now over 220 volunteers registered on the website.He cited the Dane County Community Defense website as an inspiration for starting it.

“They have done an awesome job with quick movement responding to needs,” he said.

This is the first time Ahmad said he’s volunteered his time and energy to such a degree, but said his religious beliefs are part of what drives him to give back to the community.

“I have been involved a little bit in a Muslim group, but I haven’t done this type of thing before. I’ve been in more entrepreneurial roles in healthcare information tech,” Ahmad said.

The Madison-based Muslim group Ahmad belongs to has supported the website by helping fund food purchases for users in need.

“Religion is driving a good chunk of this,” he said. “Religion teaches us when you’re in a place to help, it’s a part of your responsibility to help in those cases. As I continue to work on this, my goal is to help as much as possible.”

The next phase of the website, Ahmad said, is to increase how he markets it to users. He consulted a group of teenagers who launched a similar website in Maryland for their advice on how to better advertise the site to users.

“We are brainstorming ideas on how to get in front of the right audience, really leveraging traditional types of media like radio and flyers, to get in front of folks we’re trying to help,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad has paid for the expenses that come with designing and launching the assistance site himself. He continues to make major updates to the website, such as launching an improved notifications system on April 29.

In addition to Ahmad, Saad Baig and Steven Knurr are leading the project with significant development help from Prescott Prue, and many other volunteers.

Visit cv19assist.com to request help, or to volunteer to help those in need.

Neal Patten, community reporter, can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.