Makerere University Students Win 2011 Microsoft technology competition

By James Ratemo

Solutions to most of Africa’s problems lie in technology. This explains the myriad of technology projects and competitions started by leading companies across the globe to unravel solutions to Africa’s pertinent challenges.

Team QuestO from Uganda’s Makerere University is the winner of 2011 edition of the regional contest of the Microsoft sponsored technology competition on problem solving.

Dubbed, The Imagine Cup, the student competition centers on the use of imagination, creativity and technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

Teams comprising students from universities from Kenya and Uganda competed during a challenging day of presentations.

The winner, in the category of software Design,showcased  a desktop,mobile and web based system, dubbed CRIMEX, that focuses on crime pattern analysis in developing countries.

Joseph Lutalo,a finalist at the College of Science and Joshua Kaizzi, a first year student in 3D animations at the college of Computing and Informatics,  under the mentorship of Joseph Kaizzi,a past participant in two Imagine Cup worldwide finals,will now go on to compete in 2011 Worldwide Finals, which will take place in New York City, USA in July.

We were speechless

“We were speechless. To have won this  competition , and to have the opportunity to represent our country at Worldwide Imagine Cup alongside some of the brightest young minds, is an honour…we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to compete with students from around the globe who, like us, are passionate about making a difference in the world,” said Jospeh Lutalo of team QuestO.

Inspired by real problems submitted by intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and non-profits through a new program called Imagine Cup Solve This, each of the eleven competing teams were honoured for their work to address some of the region’s toughest challenges.

“Each team that competed in the competition deserves the highest recognition for the creativity and imagination applied to some of the world’s biggest challenges. We’re proud to honour these young students who we believe truly exemplify the spirit of the Imagine Cup competition, and we’ll be cheering on team  QuestO as they compete on the world stage in New York City,” said Louis Otieno, General Manager, Microsoft East and Southern Africa.

Now in its ninth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to become the world’s premier student technology competition with more than 325,000 students representing 100 countries participating in last year’s event. With a competition theme inspired by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems,” the Imagine Cup spans one year, beginning with local, regional and online contests culminating in the Worldwide Finals.

Solutions

As an example of the type of real-world solutions the Imagine Cup judges are looking for, last year, the winning team at the Worldwide Finals from Thailand developed a project that would help the hearing-impaired to communicate in the classroom. Their software, called eyeFeel, used a number of technologies, including speech and facial recognition systems and a text-to-sign language translator, to facilitate real-time conversations with someone who is deaf. They were awarded USD25,000 to bring their innovation to market.

Team QuestO will join the brightest young minds to compete on the world stage where they will have an opportunity to make new friends, and harness the power of technology to take on the world’s toughest problems.

Just in September 2010, a Kenyan company won sh80million ($1,000,000) in the Nokia’s Growth Economy Venture Challenge.

Virtual City Ltd, a home-grown Kenyan company, won the prize for developing a solution that aims at addressing systemic issues along the Supply Chain for distributors and retailers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) in emerging markets.

Virtual City developed a solution dubbed Mobile Distributor – aimed at streamlining the supply chain for distributors and retailers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods in emerging markets.

Nokia called on innovators from around the world to create a mobile product or service to improve the lives of people in developing nations and compete for the chance to win venture capital investment of $1 million.

Many analysts have said technology holds key to most of Africa’s challenges in health, education, concervation, construction and business sectors.

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