By Taddeo Bwambale
Three Ugandan youth who invented a malaria testing kit that digitally diagnoses malaria without the need for blood samples have won funding from President Yoweri Museveni.
Josiah Kavuma, Simon Lubambo, Joshua Businge and Brian Gitta developed the mobile phone app named Matibabu as computer science students at Makerere University two years ago.
Museveni, who was chief guest at the Mozilla Festival East Africa on Saturday promised to find $55,000 (sh180m) to fund the project to its completion.
The team known as team Code 8, were adjudged the winners of the inaugural Women’s Empowerment Award at Microsoft’s global student software competition, Imagine Cup.
Matibabu uses a custom-made portable device called a matiscope, which is connected to a smartphone, to do a rapid diagnostic test.
The user’s finger is inserted into the matiscope and the application uses a red light to penetrate the skin and detect the red blood cells.
Matibabu then sends the results to the Microsoft file hosting service, Skydrive, and these can be shared with the patient’s doctor almost instantly, preventing the long delays.
Museveni could not hide his fascination with the app and several innovations showcased at the three-day Mozilla East Africa Festival 2015 held in Kampala.
When the developers of the app told him they needed $55,000 (sh180m) start-up capital to develop their business, the President promised to meet the cost.
“I can sell some of my cows and see how to meet that cost,” Museveni told group, eliciting applause from the gathering.
Also considered for funding by the President are WinSenga, an electronic foetal heart rate monitor that uses a Windows Phone and a cervical cancer screening application.
Held at Victoria University in Kampala, the Mozilla festival attracted technology enthusiasts from East Africa and beyond to share experiences and generate new ideas for applications.
Emmanuel San James, the head of Mozilla Uganda Foundation said the software developers who work as volunteers need space, internet bandwidth and facilitation to teach more people.
The community has set out a five year plan to offer free technology training to five million Ugandans, with the hope that this will create jobs and attract tech giants to Uganda.
Museveni described the enthusiasm for technology in Uganda as a new revolution and assured software developers of state funding to develop their applications through an Innovation Fund.
“I am very happy that there is a renaissance. I can see that there is a new generation of people who have woken up,” Museveni said.
The President, however, advised the youth to tailor their innovations to support critical sectors of the economy in order to earn from them, without the influence of donors.
“Don’t get carried away and think that ICT is a stand-alone sector. It is a sector to help industry, agriculture, services and other sectors,” he said.
“It is better to anchor your activities on productivity so that your earn income by right. That will be much safer for you.”
Museveni praised city mogul Sudhir Ruparelia, the proprietor of Victoria University that hosted the festival for using his example of success as a businessman to inspire the youth.
Prof. Stephen Isabalija, the vice chancellor of Victoria University said investing in the ICT sector was critical in Uganda’s vision to attain middle income statues.
Museveni promised that the developers would have access to cheaper and reliable internet bandwidth as Uganda builds a new underground cable connecting to Tanzania.
Dr James Saaka, the executive director of the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) said the cost of bandwidth had reduced by rolling out the national backbone infrastructure.
Internet bandwidth costs from $4,500monthly per megabite of data to $650 as more government offices get connected to the system.
The President said cheaper and faster internet would create opportunities for youth to start jobs in business process out-sourcing including setting up call centres.
Saaka said plans for the construction of the National ICT Park and Innovation Centre at Namanve were underway, where the developers would have space and free bandwidth.
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Malaria app makers get funding from Museveni