Tag Archives: tech

#HackForMombasa

Courtesy of Rhoda Omenya, UN-Habitat

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Hacking. A word more often than not, heavy with negative connotations – specifically with reference to digital technologies. Today, mainstream use of hacking still refers criminal activities but has also given rise to a positive meaning – use of technical computer expertise to solve problems. Extrapolated to the term hackathon – an intense 24 or 48 hour event that provides a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology where people with technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea, and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch — these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, and robots.

UN-Habitat, Youth and Livelihoods Unit in collaboration with SwahiliBox, held a hackathon on May 20th – 21st, in Mombasa County to solve urban challenges that the county is facing. This hackathon is part of a project dubbed Innovate Counties Challenge Project that seeks to include local government partnerships in enabling governance technology applications developed by youth, have tangible impact at the community level. These challenges were identified in a challenge workshop previously held with participation and contribution from a cross cutting representation of pertinent persons from academia, civil society, youth groups, private sector, media and the core partners of the project, the county representatives particularly in the Youth and ICT departments.

The hackathon had participation from students as a result of outreach sessions done at Technical University of Kenya, Mount Kenya University, Kenyatta University and Kenya Methodist University. From the sign-up sheet, 71% were participating in their first hackathon, an indication of both the novelty of the hackathon and the challenges that would be faced therein. As such having the participants take part in a continuous 48 hour hackathon would be strenuous and thus was split in two full days.  Web4All, an ICT Enterprise founded with the sole aim of utilizing ICT to Improve the Livelihood of People in Africa, facilitated the hackathon.

In the first day of the hackathon, participants were grouped into the challenges they wanted to solve and taken through ideation and theme matching, meeting user needs and problem solving and low fidelity prototypes and placeholder sites under rotational mentorship. This enabled them to immerse themselves into the problems they were trying to solve by understanding the main person faced with the challenge – in line with human centered design’s core principle of empathy. Ultimately aiding the teams to narrow their thinking to one solution – what they were envisioning, for whom and how the solution would ameliorate the user(s) life. Day 1 concluded with hacking of their solutions.

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Figure 1 Participants at the end of Day 1

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Figure 2 Working through the Idea Canvas

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Figure 3 John Paul from Web4All taking participants through the Business Model Canvas

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Figure 4 Taking a break to fuel the body

Day 2 of the hackathon had the participants hacking and finalizing their solutions, as the mentors took them through deck preparation and pitching for the presentation.

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Figure 5 Mock pitching to mentors

The hackathon had four judges:

  1. Nyevu Karisa – County Government of Mombasa Officer, Department of Trade, Energy and Industrial Development
  2. David Ogiga – Director, Sote Hub
  3. Adam Chagani – Consultant, UNODC
  4. Sharmaarke Abdullahi – Project Management Officer, UN-Habitat

The air was stiff as teams began presenting their seven minute terse pitches, with a three minute follow up Q&A from the judges. There were thirteen teams exhibiting solutions on varied governance problems from service delivery (waste, transport and water management), tourism promotion, urban farming, county government transparency, to the often forgotten social and intangible human facets of drug abuse, etc. The judges evaluated the presentations based on the tangibility of the solution (thus showing the team’s grasp of the problem being solved), the solution’s feasibility on a technical level, its creativity and originality. Further, the teams had to show that the solution is socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. The teams were additionally judged on their cohesiveness and presentation skills.

The judges then went into weighty deliberations, finally agreeing on the top three teams:

  • Winners: Mji Safi with their innovative solution of preventing food produce at markets turning into organic waste. This would be done using an inventory control system, working with a market management authority and vendors.

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Figure 6 Winners: Mji Safi

  • First Runners Up: Azucorp with a hardware solution of delivering urgent medical supplies using drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) thereby reimagining transport modes. This solution comes an opportune time as the Government of Kenya has recently approved the use of commercial drones.

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Figure 7 First Runners Up Azucorp

  • 2nd Runners Up: Veve with an interactive web portal for both locals and tourists to restore Mombasa as a tourist destination and thereby reversing the drop in Foreign Direct Investment and specifically the five year drop in tourism earnings.

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Figure 8 2nd Runners Up – Veve

Special mention is given to Aqua Harvesters who came in sixth with their novel solution of a solar desalination and pump system that sanitizes and distributes water by exploiting road traffic movement to push water without fuel – consequently tackling water scarcity and quality.

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Figure 9 Judges

Looking ahead, the top six teams will be taken through a fundamental training on the startups and entrepreneurship to give them the starting block to techpreneurship whereas the winners, Mji Safi will continue on with the incubation to develop their solution for piloting and provide them with the necessary skills to develop a business model for scale.

The two days captured the vision, creativity, resourcefulness, and imagination of youth despite the newness of a hackathon in Mombasa County. Emboldening them should be a never ending exploit.

 

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Football Pitch Make-over through Design Thinking

A lot was happening in Mlango Kubwa’s football pitch last week. Mlango Kubwa is a ward in the Mathare informal settlement in Kenya. Mathare has approximately 500,000 residence; Mango Kubwa itself has approximately 50,000 residents of which 70% of the population is 24 and under.

After its inauguration by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, it became the centerpiece of Design Thinking workshop organized to give it a sustainable make-over.

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The football pitch is the cornerstone of the community, strategically placed and accessible for all Mlango Kubwa’s residents. Used primary for football, sport and play, at times it’s also a place for talent shows, celebrations and other community events. But time, weather conditions and lack of resources have left a toll on its appearance and condition. What was once an astonishing sport facility in the midst of a slum is now rapidly deteriorating public space.

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To try to help out and bring new ideas and perspectives on the issue, UN-HABITAT teamed up with GIZ Sport for Development Africa programme and Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel from University of St. Gallen, an expert in Design Thinking methodology, to run a 2-day workshop with the community. Ran as a pilot in a difficult context of poor urban community, the hope and expectation was to come up with new strategies to revitalize and sustainably maintain the field.

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Despite slow start, the community members attending the workshop came up with some amazing ideas of how to improve the current state of the pitch.  Through rather complex and at times quite challenging steps of the Design Thinking methodology, the community looked at the most pressing issues, including safety and security, drainage, waste management and communication. Here are just few examples of simple interventions that were born that day:

  • Adequate fence around the pitch perimeter, with some kind of roofing to protect from rains
  • Paid caretaker(s)
  • Build-in drainage
  • Regular clean-ups, with competitions between school
  • WhatsApp group to inform the community of events and happenings at/around the pitch

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Funding remains a challenge and will determine the successful implementation of all the ideas that the community envisioned for the football pitch but everyone remains hopeful that over time, they will achieve everything what they set themselves for. UN-HABITAT will continue to support the Mlango Kubwa community and hope that together we can make it happen.

Innovation Marketplace – Urban Challenge Workshop

April 28, 2015

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UN-Habitat in partnership with Ericsson Research, Samsung C&T, Community Chest of Korea and Strathmore University hosted the ‪Urban Challenge Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya as part of UN-Habitat’s Innovate Kenya Project. The workshop brought together youth representatives from Nairobi based tech start-ups and NGOs and county government representatives to collectively identify some of the main challenges faced in Kenya in regards to young engagement in governance at the county level, with a particular focus on urbanization issues.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDr. Joseph Sevilla, from iLabAfrica, a research institute with a focus on ICT, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Business Development hosted in Strathmore University kicked off the day at the ‪‎Urban Challenge Workshop, “This workshop aims to explore how young people are using technology to engage in governance. The more we include ‪‎youth in the ‪governance of the different counties; the better will be the feedback for government authorities. Counties can get better insights on what’s really happening in the ground with the real people living there.”

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Helene Opsal, from UN-Habitat Youth Unit presented the Innovation Marketplace to the group. “This project seeks to build capacity at the county level in Kenya around the use of ICTs as a tool for good governance and youth engagement, ultimately institutionalizing innovative solutions to enhance ‪citizen engagement.”

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Markus Nyberg, from Ericsson Research introduced the concept of “networked societies” and presented some of the cutting edge innovations and trend identified in Kenya. You can learn more about the concept of “networked societies” at http://www.ericsson.com/thinkingahead

Caroline Mutua, also from iLabAfrica presented some of the inspiring case studies we came across during our stocktaking exercise. If you want to learn more about how youth have been using ICT to create change in their communities in Kenya, check our Caroline’s presentation: UN-Habitat Stocktaking Presentation

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After the introductions were done, it was time to get to work, and participants of the Urban Challenge Workshop were divided into groups which mixed youth and county representatives to start to identify burning challenges they face in their counties related to Economy, City Planning, Governance and Basic Services. 

The groups had the opportunity to reflect about the roots of the different problems identified during the workshop, some of the insights from the groups:

  • The group discussing Basic Services reminded us that there are different needs in different settlements, and the importance of being mindful of the differences between income categories. The group recognized the need for more mapping initiatives, which will enable authorities to identify gaps and plan services such as transport, health and the use of public spaces. “ICT solutions should address a certain need that is important to the population and it should be available to the people who need the service. It should be simple to use and it should indicate responsibilities.”SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • The group discussing City Planning raised some of the challenges faced in Kenya, which included: traffic jams, housing and shelter, inclusion of urban poor in the city design, water and sanitation in the different parts of the city and the lack of open spaces to name few. “There is also a lack of youth engagement in ‎planning for ‪urban development at the county level; youth do not participate in urban planning. Some of the reasons for this are that people can’t afford to participate due to transportation costs or taking a day off work. There is a need to bridge the gap between policy makers and youth; some structures for youth participation exist but they are misused as political tools and do not provide young people with a meaning channel to have their voices heard. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • The group discussing Economy highlighted the fact that “there is a mismatch between ‪‎youth aspirations, the education opportunities available and the skills required by the labor market”, “ICTs could represent an opportunity for counties to develop dynamic channels that will enable them to receive better insight on the situation among unemployed young people. Counties need to make sure that the information available is youth friendly, and they should try to feature some of the good practices, for example some of the youth groups that have been able to access procurement opportunities, highlighting why they were successful.” SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • The Group discussing Governance, endorsed what was raised by all the previous groups, but emphasized that “youth are not being included in the planning of major projects which generate all sorts of problems, for instance, Kibera railway line was uprooted because youth were not included in discussions around the purpose of the railway lines”.

After all the groups reported back, it was time to dig deeper into the issues/problems raised and to try formulating “challenge statements” which will be taken forward into the Hackathon that will be organized later on this year as part of the Innovation Marketplace, and will bring together different stakeholders to work on ICT based solutions to the challenges identified.

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If you want to learn more about the initiative, check out Helene’s presentation at the workshop at: https://prezi.com/dagb3y9p6adb/innovation-marketplace/

And if you want to learn more about the opportunity ICTs represent for youth engagement in governance, make sure you check out UN-Habitat Youth Report on “ICT, Urban Governance and Youth”. at: http://issuu.com/unhabitatyouthunit/docs/ict_urban_governance_and_youth_vers

Also, make sure you check some of the pictures of workshop on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153729025287119.1073741840.300677777118&type=1&l=3424fec870