A company formed at the student centre of Strathmore University has won the 2012 Nokia ‘DoGood’ Hackathon competition for its MajiRipoti application. Synacor Consortium, a Kenyan company composed of continuing and recent graduates of Strathmore University, specializes in designing and developing mobile websites, web applications and consultancy.
The MajiRipoti solution is designed to act as a link between the general public and Water Service Providers. The solution will allow the Kenyan public to report broken water pipes, sewer pipes and illegal manipulation of the water supply, therefore assisting in the conservation of water and preventing pollution through leaking sewerage.
The company bagged the ‘Open Data’ category at the global hackathon; a Nokia initiative co-organized by Parsons, the New School for Design in New York. The competition, which is part of Nokia’s Helsinki World Design Capital initiatives, aims to promote new ideas for mobile application i.e. “Design and Develop for People and Planet”.
The journey to global recognition has not been easy for the four young entrepreneurs who now work at their company developing new solutions on a full time basis as many graduates drop CV’s in different companies in the hope of securing jobs.
Eric Kitur (Lead developer), Onesmus Mukewa (Lead Technical Developer), Charlene Migwe (Marketing Director) and Douglas Injugu (Head of Operations) met at Strathmore and formed the Synacor in May 2012, a few weeks before Eric and Charlene graduated.
“During our time at the university, before we formed Synacor, two of our members (Douglas and Onesmus) had entered into a competition called AITA, organised by Strathmore University in partnership with MIT,” narrates Charlene.
“They submitted an app idea called IntelCourier, whose aim was to reduce the time spent by employees in courier companies, such as G4S and Wells Fargo, to deliver packages to their clients and also enable their clients track the location and status of their packages using a mobile phone. The idea managed to get the runners-up position and this gave us the confidence to venture into the IT industry with our innovative minds.”
Armed with the confidence and a bit of experience and knowledge from the BBIT and CPA courses they were pursuing in campus, the four set their minds to go into entrepreneurship even before graduation.
Synacor Consortium has developed solutions for other companies including Chase Bank, Microlan, Elagant Events and a few other companies.
“We also have a software solution called MajiSoft built to assist water service providers manage their utilities. This is currently running in Water companies in Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Mombasa and Kisii. MajiRipoti will be integrated with MajiSoft in the near future,” says Charlene.
According to Water Services Regulatory Board of Kenya statistics, the reported national annual water production is 346 billion litres while the average unaccounted for water is 49%. At an average tariff of Kshs40, 000 litres, the annual financial loss through unaccounted for water is approximately Kshs6.8 billion. The amount of water lost is almost half of what the country produces. MajiRipoti promises to cut the wastage and save the country the much needed water.
Commenting on Synacor’s achievement, Nokia East Africa General Manager, Bruce Howe, said: “We are incredibly proud of Synacor’s achievement, as they rose to the challenge in developing an application that stood out on the global stage. Only two entries from the African continent made it through to the finals and we are especially proud to have a winner from Kenya. The energy, enthusiasm and innovation that the developers demonstrated was amazing and we encourage more and more developers to take up such challenges. The mobile content market is growing at a rapid pace and with Nokia Lumia smartphones now available locally, we will require such partnerships to build locally relevant content for our market,” he added.
A total of 10 teams participated in the competition. AppCRAFT, from South Africa, was the only other African Company to reach the finals.
The new solution will shortly be available to the Kenyan public as a mobile application with GPS to allow tracking, and as an SMS based solution to mobile phones without GPS. The application is designed to run on the Windows Phone Platform.
To encourage more people to use the MajiRipoti application, the company will also introduce a game that involves giving individuals ranks depending on the number of reports they have issued and the number of solved issues they have confirmed. All the ranks earned will be published on both Facebook and Twitter networks.