By Paul Ndiho
Students at Uganda Technology and Management University in Kampala, Uganda are excited to participate in an apps competition. The talented app developers are devising homegrown solutions to problems in the east African nation.
UTAMU is a private university; fully accredited by Uganda’s National Council for higher education, to offer carefully designed and uniquely blended programs at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The tech university was created less than two years ago, but it’s already taking on other universities in the area of innovation. Professor Venansius Baryamureeba is the school’s vice-chancellor.
“What we are trying to do as a university, is that we have said, that we don’t want to say that it’s only degree holders, or master’s holders or Ph.D. holders who can innovate. We’re now going to the schools; secondary schools to introduce to them the culture of innovation and student are doing wonders in I.C.T. They are innovating a lot of stuff.”
Until recently professor, Venansius Baryamureeba was the vice chancellor of Makerere University, Kampala’s oldest institution of higher learning. He is arguably one of the best information communication technology professors in the country. Professor Baryamureeba is credited with raising the standards and the quality of education in the area of ICT. Even his critics acknowledge that his achievements. Today his university, UTAMU has some of the best ICT professors in Uganda.
“We get the top professors, pay them about five thousand dollars a month, but in a year, they make that money back. We are bringing the top guys, because we do, recruit the best, pay them well and they make the money for us.”
To stay ahead of the competition, UTAMU has introduced a mobile app contest that’s open to all university students– and it’s generating a lot buzz on campus. The competition is geared towards giving the talented young students the opportunity to showcase their innovations and provide solutions for some of Uganda’s problems.
Akim Ali Ojok is the university guild president and an information and technology student. He’s developing an app called “Mobile Yakka” that allows people pay for their electricity bill through their phones.
“Anybody who uses a phone, as long as you are in a place where you have access to network signals, then you is able to communicate with their meter at home. As long as, if you have app downloaded on your phone.”
These students have created some interesting applications that could change the way Ugandans interact with their smartphones and tablets. Kenneth Twesigye is a second-year computer science student who is currently working on a social networking application called “Kapya ki” or “what’s new”– that is user friendly.
“The public is absolutely ignorant about what’s trending and what channels or media they can use to develop themselves. So I created an app that people can use to get all those updates. I said, that if I’m to reach every one, then i have to use every kind of phone, but for me to use any kind of phone then i cannot use internet because I’ll be targeting one class of people. So I discovered that i could use un-structured service data or U.S.S.D. this is the application that can always help you find messages using your local phones, any type of phone, big or small provided you are on any network.”
Another I.T. student Katumba Ivan Koreta has developed a cutting edge security application called secure-citizen. He says that he wants to live in a crime free society.
“We live in a world that is full of crime, a world that is harbored by gangsters, a world that is harbored by people from different walks of life, a world that is full of people who have no heart. With me, I bring an application where citizens are entitled to feel secure and safe in their daily lives.”
John Ngubiri, dean of the schools of computing and engineering department, says the university is making a deliberate attempt to expose and encourage students to become critical thinkers. They’re challenged to think outside of the box, identify problems in their communities and develop their own solutions.
“We work on making sure that we excite the student to learn not just getting the information from the lecturer – therefore our students are always challenged with a lot of projects, a lot of personal study and they are highly evaluated and in the process they are challenged to learn more about what they have been taught.”
Education analysts say that UTAMU has the potential train and produce some of the most highly sought after students in the area of i.c.t and that the institution will have a major impact the continent.
Paul Ndiho is a Ugandan – American video journalist/ executive producer, Africa Innovations & Technology based in Washington D.C with interests in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is passionate about mentorship and developing the next generation of Africa’s young leaders. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: Paul Ndiho and Twitter: @pndiho