|Event Name:||Uganda National Technovation Challenge|
|Organisers:||Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN)|
|Venue:||The RAN Incubation Lab|
|Date(s):||Thursday 4th and Friday 5th June, 2015|
The Uganda National Technovation Challenge was organised by ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) in conjunction with the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology. This event was organised as a climax to the 12 week program designed for the Technovation Challenge that attracted teams from over 60 countries. Technovation is a technology entrepreneurship program and competition for young women which teaches these young women to build mobile applications to solve community challenges where they live.
The Uganda National Challenge was a two half day event tailored with a two-fold intent; to impart numerous multidisciplinary lessons to the attendees whilst giving recognition and accreditation to the winning teams of the 2015 Technovation Challenge at both secondary and university level.
This event attracted a multitude of organisations including WeTech and MTN Uganda that were sponsors, prominent Ugandan media houses such as Urban Television, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), women in ICT support organisations like Afchix, WOUGNET, WOPA, AfriGal Tech, RUFORM, Django girls and Kahill Insights. Also present were ladies from a vast number of secondary schools as well as universities from around the country. In the secondary school category, Gayaza High School, Maryhill High School and Makerere Modern competed in the 2015 Challenge; while Kitante Hill School, Lira Town College, Wanyange Girls S.S, Ikwera S.S.S, St. Katherine S.S, Bishop Kivengere girls school and Luzira S.S were in attendance whereas the university category was represented by Makerere University, Busitema University, Kisubi brothers College University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology.
The first day of the challenge – Thursday 4th June featured three major broad activities that took place in the afternoon between 2pm and 6pm; these were leadership games, internal pitch sessions, breakout (discussion) sessions and a panel discussion.
This session comprised of a leadership game that was captained by Brian Ndyaguma who took the different teams of five through assorted games like lifting the bottle, filling the bottle with red beans, jumping the rope, crossing the river and leading the blind (figure 1). The aim was to get the audience to participate in these games to practically illustrate how cooperation, communication and team work are key in the success of innovation activities.
This session was architected to give the teams that participated in the 2015 Technovation Challenge a chance to practice for the pitch session before a panel of selected judges ahead of the main session the next day as seen in figure 2 below. The schools that participated in this session were Maryhill High School, Makerere University and MUST
There were 4 distinct breakout sessions that were each uniquely tailored to suite the attendees at participate in the sessions at their choosing. The first two sessions that run concurrently were “Don’t learn to code, learn to think” led by Lynn Asiimwe a software developer with Access Mobile and “Innovating with communities: A need finding approach case study” led by Grace Bua a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialization specialist from RAN. The second set of sessions were “Gender Diversity in innovations” led by Kairen from WOUGNET and “Idea Generation” led by Bonita Nanziri from AfriGal Tech
Don’t learn to code, learn to think: In this session the moderator pointed out the need to fully exhaust the requirements for a solution before starting to develop/code. In order to illustrate this concept, she used the Merge sort algorithm game to show the audience the use of algorithms in our daily life, shown in figure 3. She further encouraged the attendees to always put down their ideas before thinking about turning them to applications.
Innovating with communities, a need finding approach case study: The session began with various terminologies used in audience engagement in needs finding, for instance community, needs finding and innovation. The major emphasis all throughout this session was how finding solutions within communities is more paramount than deriving solutions from outside sources. Grace further elaborated that it all begins from identifying the needs of the community, prioritizing their needs and then choosing the most succinct one of the ideas generated that can be addressed more efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of the community and bring about real change.
Gender Diversity in innovations: The session focused on how the number of women in technology is steadily rising and that women need to break free and use all the resources at hand to advance in the field. The take home from this was how we all need to support women progress in their various endeavours leveraging technology as a smart means to an end. Some of the problems highlighted were rigid cultural norms and the communities that have made women greatly lag behind.
Idea Generation: This session was centred on the thought cycle of innovation; the creative process of generating ideas, development of the ideas and actualisation. Idea generation was further elaborated to involve communication of ideas which encourages one to think out of the box divergently in a bid to realize a breakthrough. Bonita cited and encouraged her audience to make use of imagineering’ as it has proven to help in the idea generation process because it enables one to visualise the ideal scenario with no barriers in order to pave way for the refinement and perfection of the idea.
The panel discussion moderated by Brian Ndyaguma was inspired by the different journeys travelled and experiences gained by the young panel of innovators within the tech scene in Uganda. The panellists were selected from three influential sectors in our economy – Agriculture, health and networks. Representing agriculture was Lisa Katusiime the co-founder of Agro Market day, an innovation that seeks to address the challenges rural farmers face in marketing their products. Lynn Asiimwe, a software developer with Clinic Communicator, a patient engagement application under Access Mobile Clinic made the health presentation and Joshua Okello shared about his innovation called Easy Boda that connects people to professional, safe and reliable boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) riders no matter the time of day/night.
The 3 panellists shared their different achievements, hardships and hopes for the future. Lisa explained how community engagement is important while correctly ascertaining what the problem area to be addressed is and whether the proposed solution meets the actual needs of the end users. Through this approach, Agro Market Day has managed to get approximately 900 users of their application with 800 being farmers. For Lynn the sugar in the pudding is in understanding the core dynamics of a development team and learning how to leverage on each and everyone’s unique skill sets. This she said is what has enabled her and her teammates to successfully develop and implement Clinic Communicator to its full magnitude. Unlike Lisa and Lynn, Joshua’s innovation Easy Boda received the most critiques from the audience regarding implementation. This was rooted from the fact that the technology that his application requires i.e. smart phones is not in the hands of most of the boda-boda cyclists around Kampala.
In its entirety, the discussion served as clear evidence that innovation is an all-round phenomenon that both the developers and users have to face each and every day. With an ably functioning application, the developer has to fight the continuous battle of making the end users understand why ones’ application is the most outstanding and how they can seamlessly incorporate it into their normal day lives regardless of the sector in question. In the same breathe, the users have to consider whether the methods they were using are not efficient anymore, how accessible and reliable are the applications developed and most importantly whether the application meets the intended needs of the user. The day ended on a light side with a tea break and some bites.
The second and final day of the Uganda National Technovation Challenge brought together all the secondary school and university teams that took part in the 2015 Challenge as well as other secondary schools with prospects of participating in the 2016 Technovation Challenge.
The major activities slated for the day were a Technovation overview, pitching session, motivational talks and the judges’ deliberations.
The National Technovation program came to a close on Thursday 30th April, 2015 where all the teams participating were expected to have submitted the deliverables to be considered in the finals. Prior to the Technovation challenge finals, a panel of external judges was selected to assess the different teams based on the deliverables expected of them, that is, a 100 word description of the application, a business plan of the ideas generated, a 4 minute pitch video of their idea, a 4 minute demo video showcasing their applications and the source code of the applications developed. The external panel of judges encompassed of Solomon Opio, Terry Karungi, Patricia Kahill, Victor Miclovich and Barbara Birungi. At the finals the final phase of judging was done by a panel of 4 judges, that is, Solomon Opio, Patricia Kahill, Diana Ntamu and Charity Kyomugisha.
The Technovation overview presentation explicitly detailing the outcomes of the 2015 Technovation challenge was delivered by Sheila Agaba and Victoria Mbabazi. They gave a recap of the Technovation challenge concept considering the new number of girls in attendance emphasizing the fact that it is a challenge that builds the capacity of young ladies to innovate. Also highlighted was the involvement of RAN in Technovation through the RAN4Gals initiative whose ambition is to increase the female participation in the innovation ecosystem. Next was a rundown of the activities that were carried out throughout the 12 week program and these included;
i. Student, coach and mentor registration – The student registration was done within the respective institutions and the Global Technovation challenge web portal for the secondary school teams. This stage attracted students from Makerere University, Mbarara University, Busitema University and Kisubi Brothers University as well as different secondary schools, Maryhill High School, Makerere Modern S.S, Gayaza High School, Lira Town College and Kyambogo College. Each of the above mentioned schools had coaches coordinating them and some ladies applied to participate in the challenge as mentors whereas some were handpicked owing to their skill set and general enthusiasm about girls in STEM.
ii. Mentor and Coach Workshop – This transpired on Saturday 21st February 2015 facilitated by RAN. This was a training session for the
coaches (teachers) of the participating secondary schools and the mentors. This workshop was targeting getting all participants well acquainted with the Technovation Challenge through the selected sections of the program, that included, introduction to Technovation, coach and mentor info-session, the 12 week program concluding with insights from a mentor and coach of the 2014 Technovation Challenge.
i. Secondary school and university visits – The school visits were an opportunity for the mentors and RAN team to physically interact with the teams participating in the challenge. It provided a platform where the students would be guided on how to better improve their applications and where need arose the mentors would provide technical support to drive the teams ahead in the remaining duration of the challenge.
This was where the teams that managed to submit by the deadline were given the podium to pitch there applications. In the High school category there was Gayaza High school with 2 teams, Maryhill High School with 1 team and Makerere Modern S.S with 3 teams. In the University category we had Makerere University with 1 team, Mbarara University with 2 teams and Busitema University had 1 team. The teams were each given three (3) minutes to pitch their applications and two (2) minutes to answer any questions arising from the judges. Succeeding each of the pitch sessions was the filming of the respective teams pitch videos.
i. Gayaza High School – The first team brought forth an application called Donorsville and the second team’s application was called FarmCorp. Donorsville was an application aiming at solving the problem of lack of access to scholastics by schools through a provision of a platform where donors can send money to contribute to a school’s scholastic needs. On the other hand, FarmCorp was an application providing a social interaction platform for agriculturalists with adequate information about agricultural produce as well as a language translation feature for easy communication.
ii. Maryhill High School – The vibrant team of five pitched their application called the Electronic Identity Card (E-ID) that they believe is bound to minimise the hardships faced when someone misplaces their national identity cards. Their intention is to integrate their system with the Uganda National database to gain access to the relevant information needed to make the application fully functional.
iii. Makerere Modern S.S – The Jimble galz pitched their application called Soft-ID that enables users to be identified which eliminates the need for one to carry their hard copy identity cards. The second team presented an application by the name of F&B sure-hawker which is meant to help hawkers sell their fruits and beverages without movement through agents and also allow buyers to order from a near agent. The third team with their application T2V Edu-share shared their goal of extending education from schools in the modern centres to those deep down in rural areas through the use of short audio recorded messages embedded within their application.
iv. Makerere University – The team dubbed CodeGurus were the flag bearers for Makerere University with their BVKit Vaginosis application that is providing an option for girls and women to test themselves for any unhealthy vaginal bacteria as often as they so please. Their application receives sample values through Bluetooth when connected to an arduino PH sensor that picks PH values that are sent the cloud in order to return the exact PH values.
v. Mbarara University – The first team had an application called Clean disposal that addresses the issue of poor waste disposal in the communities. It acts as a middle man between the community and the garbage collection authorities that keeps the community informed of the collection schedules and collection points. The second team with its application called My unborn baby aims at easing the access to causes of maternal mortality.
vi. Busitema University – The team came up with an application called the Fitsula Awareness Project whose concept sprouted from the fact that many Ugandans are still ignorant of Fitsula. Using for broad modules in their application (patients, resources, broadcast and calendar), the young ladies believe that this application will cause National relief in subject to Fitsula
While the panel of judges went away to discuss the outcomes of the pitch session, there was an interlude of motivational talks given by the chief guest, Ms. Susan Ajok, the Chancellor of Makerere University, Professor Mondo Kagonyera and the RAN Chief of Party, Professor William Bazeyo.
Ms. Suzan Ajok, Executive Director of Straight Talk Foundation encouraged the innovators to never give up in their endeavours because it is not the number of times you fall that matters but the number of times you get up and continue the journey, discover and believe in yourself.
Speaking to the youth filled audience, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera shared some words of wisdom regarding our life ambitions. Giving a very realistic example of the impact of setting one’s goals high, he gave a scenario of how students aspire to go to the best universities they know and depending on one’s exposure they will select Makerere University to MIT. His advice to the youth was to never take an opportunity for granted and to have a goal that is strong enough to keep one focused on the fruits of your hard work.
Professor William Bazeyo sealed off the motivational talks by encouraging the young people present to engage in innovation and science because the yields are a thousand fold. To show his commitment to supporting innovators, he pledged to fully sponsor one female representative from Gayaza High school to attend the 2015 Global Technovation world pitch slated to happen on June 24th and 25th in San Francisco, California.
Dr. Dorothy Okello kicked off this session by awarding the young ladies from Makerere University who emerged as the pioneer winners of the 2014 Technovation Challenge with their education mobile application that enables a student to study, schedule or even share their notes.
Ms. Diana Ntamu representing the panel of judges gave the panel’s deliberations; in the secondary school category the winners were Gayaza High school team Abahinji with their application FarmCrop and in the university category team Code Gurus from with their application called BV-Kit Vaginosis were declared winners.
From the 2015 Technovation Challenge, the participants testified that it is no longer just another competition; Technovation is now a means through which young ladies use technology and can actively be part of the innovation process that generates solutions to some of the problems that their communities face.
Report Compiled By: Victoria Mbabazi Bagorogoza