Kenyan lads develop award winning apps

September 21, 2011
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Kibugi and Lemayian / COURTESY

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 20 – Just like any other bubbly 20-year-old, David Lemayian loves to have a good time with his friends during his free time.

When he gets down to business, Lemayian is a software applications developer, whose work has caught the attention of the government as well as some of the best global apps developers.

His app, ‘Olalashe’ – which enables one to immediately alert others in case he is in trouble – has propelled him to global fame.

“If you are in trouble, you can quickly press one button and it sends communication to all your ‘in case of emergency contacts’ giving them your location and alerting them that you might be in trouble,” explains Lemayian.

‘Olalashe’ which means brother in the Maasai language can also help people to report crimes as they happen using the mobile phone. By responding quickly to the SoS, the developer hoped to make a contribution to the reduction of crime in the country.

Lemayian is one of the two Kenyans who emerged tops in the Google ‘Android Developer Challenge’ in sub Saharan Africa, which aimed to encourage the development of quality applications that are relevant to mobile users particularly in Africa.

The idea to develop this app came to him after hearing many victims of carjacking incidences narrate how they were helpless they had been when confronted by gun-wielding thugs.

“You might try calling one person and that number might not go through so I thought, why shouldn’t I be able to use my phone, press one button and it sends it (the cry for help) to everyone,” he says of his light-bulb moment.

His knowledge of coding as well as his love for computers came in handy for the Strathmore University student whose search for some ‘excitement’ saw him enrol for evening classes and set up Capefield Limited.

Since May this year, the Capefield director has developed other applications including ‘Msema Kweli’ which enables constituents to monitor and track how their Constituency Development Funds are utilised. It was recently featured when the government unveiled the ‘open data’ portal.

The ‘Olalashe’ win however underpins the young man’s abilities and gives the developer-cum-student some impetus to come up with other exciting applications that make life easier for Kenyans.

He hinted to Capital Business that his next project will involve developing an app that can help address the crippling Nairobi traffic.

“There are concerns about the traffic congestion and if I can help people a bit so that they can try and figure out how to handle traffic better, I would like that. I have a few ideas on that,” was all he could let on.

The other Kenyan winner, Gerald Kibugi is the contemporary of Lemayian.
Kibugi, is a soft-spoken computer science and engineering graduate from Maseno University. He developed a mobile phone application that allows shoppers to compare the prices of various products in several supermarkets.

The ‘Shoppers Delight’ developer, who also has a Masters degree in Information Technology Management., wanted consumers to get the best value for money especially given the hard economic times.

“It has a feature where one can compare the different prices of products and it also has a feature for ‘health-checker’ that for instance recommends to a diabetic customer to buy brown bread which is healthier than the white one,” he explains.

With the Google award, he says the next step is for him to incorporate more products into the application and roll it out countrywide.

“I want to approach supermarkets and have integration with the application such that we don’t have to go to the supermarkets to get the pricing details but this is uploaded automatically,”

Kibugi says of his plans which also include introducing it in the neighbouring countries.
Besides the fame that comes with winning the competition, the two young Kenyans got to pocket a tidy Sh2.3 million ($25,000) which they intend to re-invest in their operations to boost their growth

In addition, they will benefit from the Google staff mentorship program in order to enable them further hone their skills.

And as they savour their new found fame; the two lads say they are not done yet. Their vision is to use technology to impact the society by developing applications that are relevant and those that can help solve some of the problems in the community.

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