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Mandela Day Goes Digital With New App

FILE: Nelson Mandela's former private assistant Zelda la Grange speaks at the launch of her book "Good Morning, Mr. Mandela" in Johannesburg, June 19, 2014.
Anita Powell
Nearly two years after his death, Nelson Mandela a new app that encourages users to support charitable organizations in need. The "Play Your Part" app has already garnered donations, and its creators say it's a new way to honor the beloved late South African president's legacy on Mandela Day – July 18th. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela Day, declared by the U.N. in 2009, has evolved into a day for South Africans to do charitable work for 67 minutes. The Nelson Mandela Foundation says that’s one minute for every year Mandela gave to his struggle for equality.

And now, on what would have been his 97th birthday, Nelson Mandela has gone digital, with an app to help South Africans give back.

The new “Play Your Part” app, developed by a company called Going the Extra Mile, or GEM, allows South African users to find charitable organizations in need of donations and volunteers, and to contribute.

“We’ve had an amazing response from the public,” said David Shields, who created the app. “I think essentially people do want to help out, especially where the disparity in South Africa is so big between the wealthy and the poor. Everyone wants to do their bit, they just didn’t know how. So this gives them a platform to do so.”

App users can earn GEM “points” by logging their volunteer activity, which they can trade for airtime, data or electricity credit. Or they can double down on the charitable spirit and donate their points to needy organizations.

Shields said the app may spread to other African nations, like Mauritius, Kenya and Nigeria. Users can find links to the app by searching for “GEM Projects” on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Mandela went to prison for 27 years for his opposition to the racist apartheid regime. He emerged in 1990 and was elected South Africa’s first black president in the nation’s first democratic, all-race elections in 1994.

He died in 2013 at the age of 95.