infoDev helps mLab...

infoDev helps mLab East Africa select first batch of incubatees

Pivot 25
infoDev is pleased to be one of the sponsors of the Pivot 25 Mobile Applications Competition and Developer Conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya 14-15 June 2011.

infoDev is pleased to be one of the sponsors of the Pivot 25 Mobile Applications Competition and Developer Conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya 14-15 June 2011. The event is an initiative of mLab East Africa, the first of the five regional mobile applications labs (mLabs) to be established under the Finland / infoDev / Nokia program on Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy.

The basic idea behind the event is a competition open to mobile applications developers across East Africa who were given their chance to pitch their ideas in front of an audience of some 350 people including a panel of judges and mentors. The 25 developers were chosen through a competitive selection process with entries in five categories:

  • Mobile payments/commerce
  • Mobile gaming, entertainment and utilities
  • Business and enterprise
  • Government, Education and Agriculture
  • mHealth

Five small and medium-sized enterprises, ranging from one to ten employees, were given an opportunity to pitch in each category and provided with help in developing the presentation, estimating the funds required and marketing the idea. The result was an amazing range of ideas ranging from SMS alert systems for HIV medication to location-based social media applications.

Some of the stand-out SMEs in each of the five categories are as follows:

  • Kopo Kopo, created by Ben Lyons, promises to integrate the 60 or so mobile money services that have been launched in East Africa by offering an automated settlements and billing system for retailers that have to cope with multiple systems and manual reconciliation. They have raised US$60k to date but are aiming to raise US$250k.
  • Eat out Mobile, an application launched during the event by WebSimba Ltd, a company that has been active in the East African market for 18 months, which offers a web-based ratings service for 200 restaurants in five cities. The mobile application enables users to access information, read reviews, make reservations and get detailed directions from a handheld device. To date, it has generated US$200’000 in revenue and sold 10’000 restaurant places.
  • Easy Parking, an application developed by three students from Kenya Methodist University which offers real-time information on the availability of parking slots in central Nairobi, as well as the possibility of reserving slots in advance for payment of 100 Schillings (around UD$1.20). They requested a very precise figure of US$208k, and got an instant positive response from Richard Bell, of East Africa Capital Partners. As he said, referring to Nairobi’s notoriously congested streets, “here’s a company that feels my pain”.
  • A Mobile Crop Disease Surveillance system, proposed by students from Makarere University, promises a system that uses mobile devices equipped with GPS and cameras to upload images of damaged crops, such as cassava. The beauty of the system is that it is integrated with a image analysis system which analyses the percentage of a leaf that is infected, with 92% accuracy, obviating the need for experts to be present at the point of analysis.
  • MedKenya, a team of two ex-Safaricom employees that includes one of the founders of the infoDev-sponsored Mobile Monday Kenya, and which was the overall winner of the competition. Their idea is to provide medical information in the Kenyan market, where there are 7’000 potential patients for each Doctor. They plan to make money through an annual listing fee for Doctors as well as through advertising. They are one of the first organizations to access open data from the Kenyan Ministry of Health.

In addition to the 25 finalists, the conference also saw presentations from the first set of mLab trainees – with Carol presenting “Smart shopper” and Dunstan presenting “M-Tracker” – as well as thematic sessions on access to finance, women in ICT, and a presentation of the mLab program from infoDev’s Tim Kelly.

The Pivot25 event was a success and may now be repeated in other regions, notably in South Africa, where the second infoDev mLab has been established in Gauteng Province, South Africa.

For further event coverage, please see:

Silicon Savanna: Mobile Phones Transform Africa by Alex Perry, TIME

Money Matters: Mobile innovation in Kenya by NTV Kenya


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