The man 17,000km away who helped millions of Australians in lockdown

·News Reporter
·4-min read

On August 14, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Sydney residents were to be restricted to just five kilometres from their homes.

It was a significant moment in NSW's pandemic timeline and a strong indication the severity of the threat posed by the devastating Delta variant had hit home for Ms Berejiklian's government.

More than 17,000km away, father-of-four Dave Bolger, in the small coastal town of Wexford in southeast Ireland, was understandably none the wiser. 

But not for long. 

Forty-eight hours later he received an unlikely message from Australia prompting him to jump onto his computer.

"I received an email from someone saying 'thanks very much'," he recalled to Yahoo News Australia.

And while it may seem like a bizarre and random occurrence, the 44-year-old had been receiving messages from around the globe for a while now.

Dave Bolgar in a selfie photo in the Irish countryside with his wife and three daughters and son.
Dave pictured with his family. Source: Supplied

Eighteen months earlier, Dave, a software developer, was sat with his wife when Ireland's own travel limit was declared, restricting residents to just 2km from their homes. 

Sat on the couch reflecting on the daunting lockdown just imposed, his wife Joanna turned to him and asked him just how far that was. 

Unable to answer, he jumped online in search of answers but with little success. 

On a whim, he decided to create 2kmfromhome.com, a simple yet invaluable tool which allows users to work out their travel limits during lockdown by dropping a pin on their location and creating a circle around it with the user's radius of choice.

It took him just four hours to get live.

While initially only for friends and family, it wasn't long before the site began to gain significant traction and was soon in use across the entire country.

"Before I even had chance to clean it up I had some family and friends sending it to me saying 'this is cool, this is where we can go!'" Dave fondly remembers.

By the end of its first full day in Ireland, the site had registered over 800,000 users, roughly 16 per cent of the entire country.

A screenshot of Dave Bolgar's website.
The website was vital for Sydney residents wanting to work out their 5km travel limit. Source: 2kmfromhome.com

Five million Australians visit site after NSW announcement

And just as it had in March 2020, the site had drawn in a wave of new users in the wake of Ms Berejiklian's announcement as several media outlets and search engines guided curious residents to the page.

"I checked the site out and the previous two days there'd been several hundred thousand people from Australia on the site," Dave said.

"It was quite a shock."

In the weeks that have since passed, a mammoth five million people from Australia have visited the site with those in Sydney, as well as Melbourne, desperate to work out just where they can actually go. 

"We never envisaged it would be such a big site," Dave said.

Adding to the confusion for many residents was the allowance to also travel within their local government area. After receiving multiple requests, Dave worked to have LGA boundaries added to the map. 

Yet despite his hard work and dedicating large chunks of his time to the site, Dave doesn't receive a cent from the site which remains free from advertising. 

To keep the site going and cover expenses he relies on minimal donations made through a 'buy us a coffee' link on the site and assistance from other platforms.

While Sydneysiders are still restricted to a five-kilometre travel limit, vaccinated people can meet in groups of five outdoors. Source: Getty
While Sydneysiders are still restricted to a five-kilometre travel limit, vaccinated people can meet in groups of five outdoors. Source: Getty

But he says he wouldn't have it any other way and his goal was simply to help whatever way he can.

"It was more about helping as many people as we can in lockdown," he told Yahoo.

"People still email us today saying that with lockdown being so scary they didn't know where they could move or what would happen so just being able to see the site and what they could do within whatever their limits were has been such a great help, for mental health as well.

"When we first heard of our lockdown, and I'm sure it's the same for everyone around the world, your world gets very small, very quickly and being able to see where you can move within those limits opens up whole new possibilities."

His site has since been a huge hit in countries using similar travel-limiting restrictions including France, Israel and Malaysia.

His work was so well received in Ireland, he received a special national project management award for his work during Covid-19.

Once the need for lockdowns globally has passed, Dave says he will look to develop the site further offering users new insights into their communities.

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