Over the weekend of May 13th – May 15th, a group of six students from the 1st and 2nd Applied ICT & leadership program cohorts took part in a challenge presented by Marie Stopes Uganda in conjunction with Hostalite Cyber academy, to devise ways to disseminate Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights information better, amongst the youth in Uganda. A first for us because we had not participated in developing any projects outside those selected as part of our course work.
Forty eight hours of presentations about SRHR by sponsors, mentoring from industry experts and startups founders, buttons clicking away, sweat wiped off brows and the judges were ready to hear it from the contestants. The hackathon did produce some pretty interesting ideas and highlight areas that are still lacking in the education system as far as the approach to problem solving and business goes. Three most notable ideas were at the Health App challenge were awarded in the following order;
SRHR BOT – Munno
A group of students from Ndejje University devised an Artificial intelligence tool which would be compatible to all smartphones just the way Siri for iPhone or Cortana for Windows devices was set up. This BOT would simply deliver SRHR information via voice and text as required by a user. The technicalities of sources that feed this BOT information were not delved into just yet but this was a pretty great way to go with the world embracing more and more artificial intelligence tools.
A team from Uganda Technology & Management University developed a web and mobile application that aids the purchase of “Mama” vouchers offered by Marie Stopes to expectant mothers to ease the financial burden of antenatal and postnatal visits to the hospital. The app also lists all services offered at Marie Stopes Uganda clinics. This App would increase the uptake of antenatal and postnatal services by mothers because they would be able to afford them better.
Students from Applied ICT & Leadership program at IHSU tabled a fun and entertaining way for the youth to consume sexual and Reproductive health information by integrating useful key messages into popular songs. The Mobile Application named Mpenzi (Swahili for Love), available for both smartphone users and simple feature phone users via USSD would be downloadable from App Store and Play Store and provide users with video and audio info-commercials amidst their favourite downloadable music, both audio and video. The presentation of this app particularly had the audience very excited as their favorite hits were played.
Key stakeholders in the health industry made resounding calls to young innovators to leverage the power of technology to empower their peers as well other groups of people in their immediate and eventually global community. Faith Kyateka, Communications Manager at Marie Stopes Uganda emphasized all the hackers to develop simple enough solutions for people in both rural and urban areas to use.
Resilient Africa Network”s Communication manager Harriet Adong also noted that it’s young people are best suited to develop solutions for the these times and use their understanding adolescent sexual and reproductive health challenges to come up with the best solutions in this challenge. Other stakeholders noted the need for these innovators to be mentored and closely followed up on during the development of ideas stages and need for able institutions to provide platforms for these innovations to be accelerated.
The entrepreneurship space is growing and there are indicators towards growing support in form of venture and seed capital, business accelerators and a general positive outlook on fostering innovation by the government of Uganda. All it takes are innovators positioning themselves for these opportunities and acting quickly.