, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 19 – Kenya has for the second year running won the top prize in the mobile applications development challenge jointly organized by the leading integrated communications services provider Safaricom and global telecommunications giant Vodafone.
The Appstar Challenge is a mobile apps competition designed to provide developers in emerging markets with a platform on through which to market their applications to a larger audience while at the same time affording them the opportunity to interact with developers from other countries.
Bernard Mukangu, who has developed Automs.gs; an SMS scheduler application that allows the automatic sending of personalized text messages on pre-scheduled dates won the grand prize of USD 12,000 (A little over Sh1mn) and other prizes, warding off competition from seven other finalists from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and India.
“The idea to come up with Automs.gs was born when I forgot to send my girlfriend a message to wish her a happy birthday and as a result she was very cross with me. From that day I purposed to develop an application that would ensure that I would never forget important events in the lives of those I care about both at a personal and professional level,” said Mukangu after being named the grand winner of the 2013 Appstar Challenge.
Mukangu started his career at Nairobits incubation hub in South B, where youth from informal settlements are given a chance to study mobile Apps development for free.
The first runners-up slot was taken by Kunal Mahajan from India who has developed a puzzle game called Matchbox, while the second runners-up was 21-year-old Lynnette Huundermark from South Africa, who presented Go Metro which offers real time train announcements, timetables and announcement for the Metrorail South Africa. They won $6,000 and $4,000 respectively.
“The best innovators are not people who create things because they are smart. Truly innovative people are those who try to find a way of addressing current unsolved problems, unmet needs and unresolved inadequacies in the societies they live in. They understand that every problem or challenge in the society is in fact an opportunity,” said Bob Collymore, CEO Safaricom Limited.
“Of course if you have a mind like Steve Jobs, you can recognize needs that people are not even aware that they have and work towards meeting those needs,” he added.
A total of 2,200 mobile apps developers registered for this year’s Appstar Challenge. 1,070 apps were developed out of which, the top 8 apps were selected following a rigorous mentorship and judging exercise. The finals in Nairobi featured 8 participants from India, South Africa, Tanzania and host Kenya.
“We came up with the Appstar Challenge because we wanted to create a platform for innovative people like you. We wanted you to show case your talents by coming up with innovative solutions through mobile application development. When I heard that we had over one thousand applicants from four countries, I was filled with hope and extraordinary optimism. I knew we are doing something right and that we are all on the right track,” said Bernard Pratapa, Vodafone’s Vice President and Head of Business Solutions for Emerging Markets.
Last year, Kenya’s Gerald Kibugi and Gilbert Ron scooped the top positions in the inaugural Appstar competition with the third slot being taken by South African developer Rudolph Joubert.