Bay leads with smart grave finder

Nicky Hartel
 July 19, 2017
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Custom Software Development

by Siyamtanda Capa
As seen in The Herlad Port Elizabeth on  July 2017.
Missing graves and burial bungles could soon be a thing of the past, with Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality boasting a “smart” grave identification system.

This allows people to track down the burial plots of their family members from the comfort of their homes.

About 90% of all graves in the metro’s 33 graveyards have been captured onto the new computerised cemetery management system, which can track the records of 450 000 graves from a computer or cellphone.

The municipality is believed to be the only one in the country to use such a system.

Synapsis Software chief executive Thomas Burckardt, who briefed councillors about the system at last week’s public health committee meeting, said that after 15 years of dealing with municipal burial records, they had found that thousands of records disappeared on a daily basis.

Burckardt said they had found burial records dating back as far as 1900.

The records they had found in the Bay had suffered a fair amount of wear and tear.

“The records were terribly old – they are in books and some of them had been around for about 100 years,” he said.

“The ink was fading and the pages were coming loose.”

Burckardt said burial records were regarded as historical records and the municipality was obliged to keep them safe.

They started working on the programme in 2009 and the burial records have been loaded onto the municipality’s website since 2012 – a fact which surprised councillors at the meeting.

Burckardt said the number of cemeteries in the metro made looking for a grave like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The public can now locate graves using a portal on the municipality’s website by punching in the dead person’s name, date of birth or death, or ID number.

The software includes a complete list of cemeteries, cemetery categories and registered undertakers, as well cremation records.

Burckardt said the electronic system meant that records could be found instantly as opposed to in other metros, where residents were forced to wait for nearly three months to locate a grave.

Each grave was attached to GPS coordinates, which assisted in locating the grave using Google maps on a smartphone.

The project is two years behind schedule and requires R2-million to complete and update.

Councillors at Thursday’s meeting said their concern was that residents were not aware such technology existed in the metro.

ANC councillor Ncediso Captain said he was worried that uneducated people would not be able to use the site.
“What is important is awareness of the programme. It might be in full swing, but people don’t know about it and it is not being used,” Captain said.

“How is this going to assist the disadvantaged people? This is a complicated system.”

Mayor Athol Trollip said the city was proud to be the only metro using the programme.

“The department must inform ward councillors and PR councillors that they can go onto the website so that any of the people in our constituencies wanting to find a grave or where a loved one is buried can do so,” Trollip said.
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