For Samer Ahmed (alias Samer Costello) and Odanga Madung , the entrepreneurial bug bit at an early stage when the two met at Strathmore High School. They initially started off by designing posters, magazines and websites for charity and companies, but they have now ventured where few have: Big data analysis. To the two JKUAT students, nothing is impossible as they juggle between classes in actuarial science and mechatronic engineering while at the same time analyzing and making sense of large amounts of electronic data.
It all started in early September 2012 at a church mass for their fallen brother Joseph Odipo. A former class-mate at Strathmore, who had been inspirational to them throughout their high school lives. Joseph had died of HIV/AIDS, a disease he had been afflicted with since birth. Despite his suffering, he never gave up on his quest and ambitions and never asked to be treated any differently. He hid his status, not out of shame but because he wanted to be treated as an equal with his colleagues.
Odipo inspired many and his passing made Samer and Madung realize how sad it was that their friend did not get the chance to do what he wanted and how many opportunities they were letting pass them by.
An unfortunate series of events had robbed Strathmore of extraordinary students through death after O levels. The school challenged Odipo’s former school-mates to do something in honor of his memory.
In an attempt to raise money for an endowment fund in the deceased’s name, the classmates set out on a shirt and armband selling venture, which did not pan out too well. This was a blessing in disguise.
Samer and Madung decided to try something new. Inspired by the “I donated sh500 towards X church/mosque”, the two came up with Project Soh: An innovative way to raise money for charity. The project is currently ongoing and can be viewed at http://soh.co.ke
As they were trying to get corporations to come on board on the Project Soh, they realized that many companies do not have a website and the ones that have, most were outdated and neglected. The content was either too old, the colors too bare or the site was just plain static almost like a digital piece of paper.
Having developed the complex Soh site, they decided to start building websites with a difference. To achieve this, they set out to build dynamic webpages integrated with a CMS( a system which allowed the owner of the website to manage the content without any technical skills whatsoever) hence ensuring that the content found there would be relevant and up to date.
To ensure the success of project Soh, part of the money received from the website venture went directly into the project and the website design team was called Odipo Dev in honor of Joseph Odipo.
A few months later, the Odipo Dev duo stumbled upon big data, an emerging concept in the fields of IT and Data Analysis. The two decided to look into it and dedicated months of research towards understanding it. Several programming principles and statistic books later, the two were ready to delve in and get their hands dirty. The upcoming elections seemed an opportune moment to test their capabilities.
They started by monitoring social media data for over a month prior to and during, the election period. The two came up with a visual analysis, based largely on the 250,000 tweets they had analyzed and the IEBC information, coming up with incisive, credible and interesting findings. The analysis, for example, accurately showed the voter turn out vis a vis coalition strongholds, most ‘mentioned’ candidate on twitter and whether the comments were positive or negative and the most influential Tweep and hashtag during the period.
Data mining is complicated and a highly specialized skill now one of the hottest global trends.
“A few multinational companies are doing it in Kenya but they are processing and analyzing data from abroad. We are yet to see analysis of large authentically Kenyan data sets,” explains Madung.
What makes the dev team unique is that they create beautiful visuals from the analyzed data in form of infographics, making it easier for users to understand the information.
Samer and Madung launched a new site (http://visuals.odipodev.com) on which they shared the results of their findings with the world. Just on the first day of the release of their findings, they had over 5000 views, with links coming in from all over the world, including articles from Aiddata and other international organistations and media.
The two are currently working on new Big Data projects that are aimed mainly at improving the Kenyan IT development in line with the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) that the country is set to achieve.
Samer Ahmed is currently a second year mechatronics student at JKUAT in Juja, and OdangaMadung is pursuing his degree in Actuarial Science at the Nairobi JKUAT Campus. The two work mostly from home and at iHub on some Saturdays.
They can be contacted through http://odipodev.com/contact-us