Tuesday December 11 2012

Tech entrepreneur looks to earn from SME application

By NICHOLAS KALUNGI

Even though computers have become a strong part of people’s lives, there are many Ugandans who cannot afford them. This leaves them at the mercy of working, sharing and storing their important information and documents on other people’s personal computers (PCs), work computers or even cafes and other hardware devices such as disks.

But this challenge has been minimised by Mr Caesar Mukama, the 24-year-old Computer Science graduate from Makerere University who has designed a new internet application – Dextop – that mimics all the functionalities of a computer, giving you a full computer experience even when you don’t own a PC.

Dextop, is the latest free computer application that has all functions of a computer. You can save messages, store mails, play games and music on this new set of internet powered application.
The application is a personal, cost efficient alternative to buying the expensive hardware especially in places where computers are shared. It guarantees one the security and reliability of cloud computing in addition to location freedom meaning that users have their own desktop anytime, anywhere.

Mr Mukama also holds a diploma in e-commerce and web design and was at one time the Google Campus Ambassador for Makerere University. It is no wonder that mid last month (November), he won $20,000 (about Shs52 million) as prize money after his application was voted best in the Sub Saharan Africa awards in the category of ‘Personal, productivity, fan and games’ for its superiority and ease to use. ’

The awards were sponsored by Google INC. Out of the 260 teams that participated worldwide and 60 that made it to the finals, three teams from Sub Saharan Africa made it to the finals where his application stood out.

“I took part in the 2012 Google Apps Developers challenge. It is in that challenge that I came up with this idea and developed it. I assumed a desktop environment running on internet and designed an application that functions like a physical computer,” Mr Mukama told Prosper magazine.
The winning apps were measured depending on effectiveness to use, originality of concept, relevance to region, polish and appeal, and indispensability among others.

Dextop’s benefits are beyond worrying about virus attacks. “With Dextop, you can save and retrieve your work and activities anytime. This application cannot be affected by viruses. What you need is internet and you will own your computer of sorts. On any computer you shift to, you can access this application.”

According to Mr Mukama, unlike other businesses that require day to day capital injections, he only required knowledge, computers and commitment.

“I never spent money on this application but it was a time consuming activity. What you need is your knowledge and commitment to finish. The software I used was free, downloaded online. Designing an application is not a problem but marketing it is the challenge. This requires serious money.”

How it works
For one to use Dextop, you have to log on an internet accessing computer that log on to the Dextop interface. When logged on, Dextop creates a perception that the user is using a computer yet, everything that he/she does is stored on his/her google account and can be accessed by the owner anytime at any computer. After using the app, the user saves and signs out of the website.
Dextop is currently accessible freely under the link; http://dextop.devolv.com for all those signed in with Gmail. Since its launch two months ago, 700 people have used it, out of which 200 people are returning users.

Although Dextop is an internationally approved application, it is a less flexible tool because it only works with Gmail users.
“For now, it can only be used by Gmail subscribers though am working on improving it to be open to everyone in future. This is a free to use edition because it was designed for a competition that only allowed innovative but free to use applications,” Mukama said.

Mukama does not feel that he has arrived; instead, he is working on redefining his application. He is working on a business version of Dextop that will require small and medium sized businesses to subscribe and pay some money before use.

“I am currently working on the Dextop enterprise edition for SMEs. It will be launched in February 2013 and will help employees to work faster and better. This will be a paid- for application that will require an SME to pay between $50 and $100 per month.”

nkalungi@ug.nationmedia.com

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