#BenderaPutih: Malaysian uni students create app to locate food banks, white flags in four days

Sidharrth, Mak, and Pang built the app to crowdsource information on food banks and places where people need aid. — Pictures courtesy of Sambal SOS and Bernama
Sidharrth, Mak, and Pang built the app to crowdsource information on food banks and places where people need aid. — Pictures courtesy of Sambal SOS and Bernama

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates.


PETALING JAYA, July 6 — A group of Malaysian students have created an app to help people find food banks as well as locations of white flags where they can send aid.

Sidharrth Nagappan, Shaun Mak, and Cornelius Pang built the app in just four days to address the growing cries for help due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inspired by the Bendera Putih aid movement, the app was originally called the Bendera Putih App when it launched on July 4 before being rebranded as Sambal SOS yesterday.

Its new name is an ode to the humble nasi lemak and the feelings of comfort and community that it brings to Malaysians.

“In tough times like these, a warm pack of nasi lemak with sambal is not just a Malaysian delicacy, it's a monument of support and a sense of communion.

“The stories behind packs of nasi lemak with delicious sambal are what all of us Malaysians have in common, and SOS is a global sign of asking and providing help,” said Sidharrth, Mak, and Pang in a Facebook post.

The trio, aged between 18 to 22, built the app in just four days shortly after the Bendera Putih movement started gaining traction on social media.

All three students are majoring in computer science with a focus on data science at Multimedia University.

Sambal SOS lets users submit details on food banks as well as information on those in need of help. — Pictures courtesy of Sambal SOS
Sambal SOS lets users submit details on food banks as well as information on those in need of help. — Pictures courtesy of Sambal SOS

Sidharrth told Malay Mail that Sambal SOS uses crowdsourced reports to pinpoint food banks and places where people have been flying the white flag on a map.

Users can submit food bank information through a Google Form under the “Food Banks” tab and highlight white flag locations through the “Report SOS” tab.

“(We wanted) to crowdsource information and connect people who need help with people nearby who can help.

“A singular map where you can see everything, we believed, would be very helpful,” he said.

Sidharrth added that Sambal SOS is a continuous work-in-progress and the team has been working hard to fix up any bugs they find along the way.

To protect the privacy of those requesting aid, the team also reviews each report of a white flag or person in need to ensure that the photos do not display any personal information.

“We're working on a more thorough moderation procedure, but we want to speed up the time it takes for people to get help.

“In terms of privacy, no faces are allowed in any photos and we review every photo before approving the report,” said Sidharrth.

Each incident report also expires automatically after one week.

A view of the Klang Valley area as seen on the Sambal SOS app. — Screengrab from Sambal SOS app
A view of the Klang Valley area as seen on the Sambal SOS app. — Screengrab from Sambal SOS app

Checks by Malay Mail found more than 70 food banks highlighted on Sambal SOS so far, ranging from soup kitchens like SEED Foundation and Pit Stop Community Cafe to food pantries at Shell petrol stations and Elews Mart outlets.

There were also more than 20 “siren” symbols on the map which represent locations of people who need aid.

You can access the Sambal SOS app here and keep up with the developers on Facebook and Instagram.

You May Also Like

Related Articles