As a business consultant, Rachelle Best CA(SA) was used to solving complex problems for organisations, but when she encountered a problem in her personal and parenting life that she didn’t have an immediate answer to, she stepped out to develop the solution herself. She is very proud today to have launched the app FYI play it safe, that helps parents monitor the content of children’s online communication and activity
Rachelle Best (44), from Cape Town, has been interested in technology for as long as she can remember. ’At the age of 12, I bought my very first computer with pocket money I saved and started exploring simple programs to solve problems. I’ve always had a business mind and when I learned that CAs(SA)can take advantage of a technology route, that sealed the deal in the profession for me,’ she recounts.
She knew she found a qualification that would give her the business skills she needed to follow a career in line with her interest in technology. However, due to a lack of funds, Rachelle could not afford to attend university as a full-time student. ‘I started working straight after school and studied part-time through Unisa. It was hard, but it taught me so many lessons about resilience, perseverance, and chasing your dreams. With enough hard work, very early mornings and late nights, and lots of support from my family, I qualified as a chartered accountant in the same time it would’ve taken if I studied full time,’ she smiles.
Today, Rachelle is grateful that her path worked out exactly as it should have. ‘The lessons I’ve learned and the people I met along the way are what made me succeed.’
While studying part-time to become a CA(SA), she joined one of the Big 4 firms as an undergraduate in their technology risk team, where she completed her studies and qualified as a CA(SA). ‘This created more curiosity into the bigger technology field and in the end, I spent 17 years with the same firm doing management and technology consulting.’
Her journey led her to become a business consultant, solving complex problems for organisations. A problem in her personal and parenting life, however, led to a whole new path. ‘When I encountered a problem in my personal and parenting life that I didn’t have an immediate answer to, I had to develop the solution myself, which I’m very proud to say is now called FYI play it safe.
FYI play it safe’s mission is to monitor the content of children’s online communication and other online activity to provide proactive alerts to parents or guardians of potential signs of cyberbullying, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, online predators, or when they engage in adult content.
As a mother of a 15-year-old, Rachelle understood the challenges of parenting in a digital world all too well. ‘My daughter is mainly the reason we started developing FYI play it safe.’
When she started considering giving her daughter a cell phone, Rachelle did ample research on any apps that could help protect her teen online. ‘I could not find any that was quite good enough. I also couldn’t find anything that would tell me what was really going on, and that would warn me if she was exposed to any harmful content or situations.’
At the same time, Rachelle wanted her daughter to feel that she respected her privacy and that she trusted her. ‘Hence, apps that would give me full access to her messages were out of the question,’ Rachelle explains further. ‘I realised that other parents may struggle with the same questions and lack of answers, and embarked on a research study in 2018.’
Her hypothesis was correct in that 99% of parents who participated in the study were worried about the dangers associated with social media platforms and the open world of the Internet, but none knew how to deal with it in a way that will provide them with the right level of comfort. That is how FYI play it safe was born.
‘The relationship I have with my daughter is really important to me. She tells me everything that is going on in her life and I felt that I would harm our relationship when I checked the contents of her phone. As a mother, I believe one should know when there are danger signals in our children’s online communication, interactions and searches. But I struggled to balance keeping her safe, with giving her full privacy in her online world.’
Rachelle wanted to develop an app that would do exactly that – protect children online, alert parents when there is something that to worry about, but at the same time respect our children’s privacy.
‘Studying towards becoming a CA(SA), the training you receive as part of articles, as well as the level of interactions with clients, empowered me to make proper business decisions. Being a CA(SA) teaches you all angles of doing business – what to consider, where the risks may be, and what to look out for.’
Furthermore, in applying for funding for FYI play it safe, Rachelle found that the CA(SA) qualification gave investors a good level of comfort in her ability to run the company.
‘We initially launched FYI play it safe for a very limited number of users as we needed to ensure our infrastructure is appropriate and to do more testing. The bigger launch of the business was only at the beginning of January 2022 and since then we’ve been making continuous improvements. We are doing a lot of work in educating parents and children in online safety via talks at schools, in communities, and on webinars.’
The app is currently only available for Android phones. However, the company is busy with the development of its capability to monitor Apple products.
It is Rachelle’s dream for the future to educate as many parents as possible through FYI play it safe and help them protect their children online. ‘We would also like to make FYI play it safe available on other platforms so that we can protect more children on different pieces of technology.’
They are planning to expand to Apple, Windows-based laptops, and Chromebooks at this stage.
For Rachelle, doing work that has an impact on children’s lives, is a humbling experience. ‘I’m driven by every discussion with a parent on how to protect their children better. I am very fortunate in that I have found my purpose and passion in creating this app that has not only the ability to help parents build a better relationship with their children, but also to save children from potentially harmful situations.’