It was a rainy and chilly day on Tuesday May 2, 2017 when several participants engaged in the Kampala Technovation Challenge regional challenge event under the coordination of a multidisciplinary RAN team. The Global Technovation Challenge activities are the organized within Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) www.ranlab.orgRAN4Gals program. The Global Technovation Challenge offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. This challenge followed a 12-week program that teaches girls to identify and address pertinent problems aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals that are within their communities through the development and use of a mobile phone application. It further instills in the participants key skills in entrepreneurship and communication.

The Kampala Regional pitch event brought together 80 girls representing three secondary schools (Nyaka Vocational Institute in Kanungu, Western Uganda, Gayaza High School and Nabisunsa Girls School in Central Uganda) that participated in the 12-weeks Technovation Global program and managed to submit the required deliverables for the Global challenge (to qualify for the competition) prior to the deadline of April 26th, 2017. This year, two winners from the Kampala regional pitch event across the Globe automatically qualify for the World Pitch in San Francisco on August 8_9, 2017, where one team will win SEED funding to help them further develop and launch their app.

During this event, judges and participants had an opportunity to listen to pitches from 11 girls’ teams from the 3 secondary schools. Each team comprised of at least 5 team members. Dr. Dorothy Okello, Director Innovations at the RAN Innovation Lab while encouraging all the teams just before they took on the floor to pitch their ideas shared that ”Pitching is also a time for you as the creative thinker behind this innovative idea to express your passion for what you are actually doing. You developed this idea, know best about it and so please show the love for the idea as you speak about it so that the rest of us can easily fall into love with your proposed solution. If you do not pitch with passion, who will do it? the judges? listeners or your teachers?”. She thanked everyone for participating in the pitch event and in particular thanked the judges who she shared ‘brought value to the whole exercise.’  ‘We need to all believe that the best ideas will come forth from all our efforts and therefore put in all our energy so that Uganda can shine in the lines of entrepreneurship and innovation among others,’ she further highlighted.  

It was exciting listening to and witnessing the young innovators strongly pitch their proposed solutions and ably defend the creativeness and value add of each of their proposals. The girls exhibited strong team building skills in the way team members responded to the questions from the multidisciplinary panel of 5 judges including; Brenda Katwesigye (Director at Wazi Vision), Emily Karungi (Organiser at Django Girls), David Kangye (Team Lead at AkiraDigital), Harriet Adong (Communications Manager at RAN) and Natasha Kassami (Engagement Officer at RAN). An online judging rubric was used to assess the ideas presented by each of the teams and this awarded scores for five main criteria, namely: (i) Ideation (i.e. showing the idea presented addressed one of the 6 Technovation themes of the UN Sustainable Development Goals) (ii) The technical functionality of the application (iii) The team’s pitch (i.e. how passionate, compelling it was) (iv) How viable their business model is and (v) The overall impression of the solution/application developed.

Like all competitions, we were all eager to know and interact with the winners. The two winning teams, “team WorkIT” and “team Teen Globe” were both from Gayaza High School. WorkIT worked on an online platform directed towards enhancing learning and sharing of educational content across schools and between the learning community, it would largely benefit the Ministry of Education too while Teen Globe worked on an app to counsel pregnant adolescents and thereby reduce abortion rates but also teach other adolescents how to avoid risky behaviour that may lead to early pregnancies. Other teams recognised for their efforts were “Momager”- a team from Nabisunsa Girls Secondary School and the first runner up who worked on an application to link working mothers with qualified and screened nannies to reduce abuse of children by their care takers.

”I have been nurturing and mentoring these students all through idea conception and development thus far and it gives me so much pride to see them struggle through the open pitch sessions and emerge winners” shared Ms. Evelyne Nassanga, a Teacher and Mentor from Gayaza High School as she interacted with the panel of judges immediately after the announcement. As they pitched, all content was coherent, they provided statistics about the magnitude of the problem, clearly stated the need for the proposed solution, presented the gist of the matter concisely, were composed on stage, lined their solution to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and also exhibited team work all through the pitch session among other attributes. Some of the team members from the winning team could not hold the tears of joy on receipt of the good news, their gifts, certificates and several congratulatory messages. It was also encouraging to witness some of the other teams delve into further engaging some of the judges to critically understand where they had gone wrong to further improve moving forward ”Excuse me judge, we as a team would like to know where we lost so many marks hindering our excellence in this pitch competition. Receiving such feedback will help us in the future” asked one team from Nabisunsa Girls School.

The RAN team is committed to further supporting these upcoming entrepreneurs towards realization of their dreams to creatively contribute to better lives in the communities by providing solutions to community challenges through innovation. Conclusively, one of the judges also noted that pitching skills are transferable to other areas of life including execution of job Interviews. Some of the students who participated in the session had this to share, “As upcoming innovators and entrepreneurs, we need to persevere with all conditions to realize our dreams. Even when a student is from a marginalized background, with determination, he/she can succeed as evidenced in these pitch sessions”.

Additional lessons shared with the young innovators included;

  • The need to adequately prepare for the pitch sessions.
  • Carry out enough research around their solution so they are able to respond to all the questions posed by the judges and ensure they are addressing real problems in communities
  • Continue working on their ideas as all were brilliant and relevant to the community challenges.
  • Need to remain time conscious during presentations in order to coin the point within the first 3 minutes.
  • Embrace team work.
  • Carry out research on what is existing and identify the existing gaps that could be addressed by their solutions.
  • Need to invest more time learning about the competitors and existing business models to ensure their applications have a competitive advantage over already existing solutions.
  • Identify one thing and do it best instead of concentrating on several.
  • Explore what else the app can do other than what it is stipulated to do now.
  • Teams need to add monetary implications into their models for sustainability issues.
  • Pay attention to the functionality of your app, prototype or innovation.
  • Consider the types of partnerships that would be most beneficial for the execution of their businesses.
  • Read about the Sustainable Development Goals to get more acquainted with them as they develop innovative solutions.