Marie Stopes Uganda, a‘gold standard’ sexual and reproductive health services provider across Uganda together with Vodafone Uganda, a leading provider of 4G-LTE high-speed broadband data services, and Hostalite Ltd, an e-commerce solutions provider, partnered to hold the 2016 Health App Challenge at the Uganda Museum.
The two-day hackathon, May 13-14, 2016 was the first ever inter-university hackathon on health, specifically sexual reproductive health attracting 60 innovators, developers, partners and students from 12 different Ugandan universities including; Makerere University, Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU), Ndejje University, International Health Science University (IHSU), Bugema University, Makerere University Business School (MUBS), Kampala International University (KIU), St. Lawrence University, to mention but a few.
Speaking at the launch of the Challenge, Faith N. Kyateka, the Communications and External Relations Manager, Marie Stopes Uganda, said, “Reaching young people with Sexual Reproductive Health information and services is one of the key focal priorities of Marie Stopes Uganda. This is because youth makeup majority of Uganda’s population. Developing an APP is therefore essential because 80% of youth in Uganda have access to media through mobile phones.”
Other speakers at the launch included Dickson Mushabe, CEO and Founder of Hostalite who gave an overview of the hackathon and the prizes to be won at the end of the two-day coding, Harriet Adong, Communication Manager at ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), who keynoted on why developers should innovate and the need to understand adolescent sexual and reproductive health key challenges to adequately inform the innovation process and Nicholas Kamazi, Co-Founder of Yoza app, who shared about the power of mobile technologies on behalf of Africa’s Talking and also provided free APIs at the hackathon.
The hackathon followed the Human Centred Design Approach by actively engaging young people and basing the solutions developed on their real needs and experiences. The hackathon also encouraged participants to think outside-the-box in order to design unconventional solutions to promote young people’s sexual reproductive. It was also exciting and informative to witness a section of the hackathon indoor activities being documented using a drone recently acquired by Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) through the continued generous support from the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). “In order to effectively innovate, immerse yourselves in the communities experiencing these challenges, understand what the challenges are exactly, what are the priorities and what coping mechanisms are already in place. In all that you do, endeavour to document through photos and video given that these speak louder than text” noted Harriet Adong.
The students were then divided into groups of four to compete in developing a mobile applications which could be used to promote young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and later on in the day, each team was engaged with a designated mentor who monitored their progress and aided them in selection of their final idea proposal.
The second day of the hackathon, was Pitch and Presentation Day. All the teams brought forth their prototypes before a panel of judges who selected the winners based on how well the prototype represented or achieved the hackathon objective.Speaking shortly before the winners were announced, Dr. Carol Sekimpi, Managing Director, Marie Stopes Uganda called upon the participants of the hackathon to have healthy children and minds by choice not by chance.
From a total of 10 teams, TeamMunno from Ndejje University, who came up with a mobile application integrated with artificial intelligence (AI), emerged winners of the challenge with TeamUtamu from Uganda Technology and Management University and TeamMpenzi from International Health Science University coming in as 1st and 2nd runners up respectively.The winning team walked away with Vodafone handsets, a 4G indoor router (with 50GB of 6mbps data cap per month, for a period of 6 months), 3 months incubation for their app at the Hostalite Cyber Academy, exposure to funding from Marie Stopes Innovation fund plus Marie Stopes health cards valid for one year. The runner ups also walked away with Vodafone handsets and 4G indoor routers.
Conclusively, the event turned out to be very successful pulling together a large group of people (both young and elderly) to bring to the young people a better way to appreciate and understand sexual and reproductive health.