Friday March 3 2017

Let’s promote local ICT innovations



Pamela Ankunda

Pamela Ankunda 

By Pamela Ankunda

In its seventh year running, the Uganda Communications Commission has organised the annual communications Innovations Awards (ACIA) where young people show case their ICT innovations. The focus of each category keeps changing with time, but the five major categories recognised are the young ICT innovators, business excellence, IT for development, service excellence and digital content. In short, products, services and content. There is a team that is going around the country to sensitise ICT teachers to guide students on their entries-but also, beyond entries, on innovations that are market driven. In a world where Uber has seemingly overtaken the old type taxi ‘special hire’, where mobile banking is throwing traditional banks into panic frenzies, a world where mobile phones have overtaken landlines, digital broadcasting out competing analogue broadcasting; Uganda can’t be playing catch up.

Teachers ought to encourage children into creative thinking, to inspire them to make applicable solutions-especially for everyday ordinary needs. Parents have a role to play there-in too. Last year, ‘yakako’ an emergency power credit service came to light and already, more than 550 customers have subscribed to it. These stories need to be shared more often to create more inspiration.
One such inspiring story is the story of the previous ACIA award winner Ronald Katamba started an application known as the Jaguza-livestock. His story inspires one to greater unimaginable heights.

Ronald started raring rabbits at a tender age and was doing well, till trouble befell and all the rabbits died. Out of a sad story, came greater ideas, and later in life as a university student, that idea came to life. Armed with conviction, Katamba responded to the call for entries to the annual Communication Innovations Awards. Katamba entered his Jaguzza Livestock App that basically powers livestock production. The entries were interesting and many, and the Jaguzza application did not make it to the awards table. However, because it stood out in potential, and was chosen by the judging panel to win the judges choice award usually given to promising and upcoming innovations. Katamba was motivated by this recognition and he continued to pursue his dream. Today, with the world at his feet, he is going places. In mid February, Katamba was invited by the Common Wealth Telecommunications Organisation to address the 2017 CTO App forum that took place in Rwanda. He has spoken to audiences in Kenya and Fiji and has been invited to Washington on the same mission.

Alongside Katamba is another young innovator-Stephen Tashobya a software developer whose Natalsys team of young innovators won the ICT visionaries award during ACIA 2016. The team was recognised for inventing a handheld embedded monitoring system which helps expectant mothers to monitor the condition of the fetus and the contraction of the uterus in the last trimester of pregnancy. They got a cash prize, seed funding and incubation support. Their innovation, the ‘wekebere device’ is a welcome intervention especially in the hard to reach areas. Tashobya is currently in Barcelona at the World Mobile Congress to learn from and interact with his peers.

In the meantime, we congratulate another ACIA winning team-the Barefoot Law a tech-savvy legal firm that provides support, information and guidance via ICT to poor people, helping them access legal services. ACIA opened the doors for them to the world, and since then, their work has been recognised internationally with numerous awards, and have been nominated for the King Baudouin Award in Belgium. We wish them the best!
The ACIA platform will continuously identify and support creativity and innovations that will spur Uganda to greater heights. Young people have the power to continuously change for their country for better. The onus is on how much of their potential, they can explore.

Ms Ankunda is the head, public and international relations-UCC.

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