Sunday, 4 January 2015

Seven youth driven ICT initiatives that crowned 2014

Technology news is full of many developments, but some of them are true milestones and deserve special recognition. As the New Year begins, we will focus on seven projects that are worth celebrating.

These initiatives from the past year all solve thorny problems or create new ways of using technology. They are breakthroughs that will remain memorable for years to come. The most interesting part of it all is that they are youth-driven which shows a promising knowledgebased 2020.

Tech support Incike initiative – Young ICT Entrepreneurs
A group of Young ICT Entrepreneurs under PSF ICT Chamber – kLab came together to respond to a call that addresses one of the problems faced by a portion of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, locally known as “INCIKE”. These are people whose family members were all decimated during the Genocide, and they are left all alone today. It was launched during the 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tusti.

These youth entrepreneurs developed a USSD & SMS fundraising application (*654#) which raised Rwf 1.3m on launch night and much more over the 100 days of commemoration. They have recently broadened it further to work better next year. Wait for it.

TorQue Workspace – TorQue Limited
TorQue Workspace is a cloud based inventory and distribution channel management system that records sells transactions and forecasts, tailor made for Rwanda and Africa. With its development roots at kLab, the start-up is now incubated in Think and finished with version 10.0.

They are also the reason multimillion companies like Bralirwa don’t need to carry big files of paper anymore but store all inventory information online. The software is also extended to insurance companies and moving to other countries soon.

Electronic payment system on public buses – AirClerk Ltd
Technological leaps in transport have led to countless fantasies – self-driving cars, pods on rails – most of which haven’t come to Africa but Rwanda has decided to be the first African country to have one card for public transport in the entire city. With zone 1 already loaded with passengers waving their cards to get on the bus, this youth run company is surely putting meaning to developing of a cashless economy.

With just one month in use, the card has gone viral and passengers have embraced it. The company is rolling out the same project in Cote d’Ivoire early next year. Dreams do come true.

Nuntu – Hehe Limited
It shouldn’t be the first time anyone hears of Hehe Limited as it has been in the news a couple of times. Well, this year, it run in our top developments with apps that merge education and gaming, and more recently they announced a platform called Nuntu. Nuntu is somewhat similar to Google’s Play store and Apple’s App Store, but Nuntu focuses on providing access to applications that are especially relevant on the continent in the form of music, reads and more. In short, African content now has a home.

Some of the apps on Nuntu were developed by secondary school students that won the MTN app challenge where they beat developed companies hands down. There is a great future ahead of them.

SharjaVuba – African Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED) 
Henri Nyakarundi is an entrepreneur who has designed and franchised solar-powered mobile phone charging kiosks.

“The lack of electricity was a big problem in the region,” says the ARED founder. “About 60% of the population has a cellphone but less than 15% has access to electricity.”

The kiosks are small enough to be towed by a bicycle to wherever people will pay a small fee to charge their phones. The kiosks can charge up to 30 phones at a time and Henri now has 24 franchises operating across Rwanda.

“You see a lot of people that want to be in business for themselves but they don’t want to be in business by themselves,” Nyakarundi says. “When you look at statistics, the franchise business model has a higher rate of success than traditional business. 80% of franchise businesses succeed; 80% of traditional businesses fail.”

Stereoscopic 3D – Guez Show Ltd
Arguably, the youth brains behind this innovation are indeed doing a great job. Guez Show, a 3D animation and graphics company, was the first to bring Digital Cinema Packaging and also famously known for making the Transform Africa 2013 advert which left many people all over the world mesmerized by how much Rwanda can do.

To put that into perceptive, Guez Show gives an image or video width, height and depth (length). Our physical environment is 3D and we move around in 3D all the time. In the movie sense, the glasses we wear enable us to see two different images simultaneously with each eye and provide a stereoscopic vision to the viewer. Now, we don’t have to wait for it only in the movies, we can make it ourselves thanks to the sleepless nights of the Guez show team.

House of Tayo App – House of Tayo and Full Circle
Even though this isn’t up and running yet, it built a bride that most thought wasn’t possible. With a fashion industry that was ignored for so long, House of Tayo gets into the industry but doesn’t only stop at doing what they do best but integrate technology to give a better experience to their clients with their QR based mobile app.

There’s a special collection of bow ties the fashion house is making right now and the box will have a QR code and when one scans the QR code, they can see the bow tie being made. It’s bridging that gap between the customer and the person making the product in a way that I haven’t really seen being done before. Unfortunately we are done for this year, and the year following after this gets better and bigger but just 7 spots available. Who will be there?


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