Internet.org awards African innovators

CAPE TOWN – The Facebook-led initiative Internet.org on Monday announced the winners of the Innovation Challenge in Africa awards, describing them as “leading examples of ideas, apps, websites and/or online services that provide real value in the categories of education and economic empowerment”.

A statement from the initiative, which seeks to bring together technology leaders, non-profit organisations and local communities to connect the two-thirds of the world’s population who don’t yet have internet access, noted that only 28 percent of the population of Africa had access to the internet.

“We need to help people understand the possibilities available to them online. Each of the submissions we received has a part in creating a more connected world,” it added.

The leading app, website, service or idea that best meets the needs in two categories, Education and Economic Empowerment, won U.S.$150,000. There were also two additional U.S.$50,000 impact awards for each category.

In the Education category, the Innovation Challenge Award Winner was Esoko, a Ghanaian web and mobile app that makes it easier for businesses, governments, NGOs and others to connect with farmers. Esoko enables two-way data flows that allow smallholder farmers to access agricultural information and markets, and businesses to gain better visibility into their supply chains.

Esoko – which takes it name from e for electronic and “soko”, or market in Swahili – has spread its services to eight additional markets across Africa.

In the Economic Empowerment category, the Innovation Challenge Award Winner was South Africa’s Hyperion Development, which built an online course platform for computer science education supported by the largest online community of software developers in Africa.

The statement from Internet.org added that Hyperion Development allowed anyone to take online courses in coding with a personal computer or mobile phone, even without a broadband connection, which fewer than 1 percent of Africans have.

In the Education category, Impact Awards were given to mPedigree Goldkeys from Ghana and Nigeria’s SaferMom.

mPedigree Goldkeys is an anti-counterfeiting, tracking and tracing solution that uses consumers’ mobile phones as a verification tool. The service helps farmers and consumers to determine whether they are buying original or counterfeit seeds and other agro-inputs like pesticides as well as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and electrical components.

SaferMom provides pregnant women and new mothers with simple tools via sms, voice services and its mobile app to help them make informed health decisions.

The service uses a chain of community health partners and mobile technology to track the health of pregnant women and newborn babies, including immunisation schedules, nutrition and behavioural routines based on their fetal development stages, and antenatal care. This service is available in English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin.

In the Economic Empowerment category, Impact Awards went to Ghana’s Mutti by mPharma and Nigeria’s Tuteria.

Mutti, which most Africans will know means medicine, is a drug affordability service that enables patients to access high quality medicine at lower prices with flexible payment terms through micro-payments. Operating in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote D’Ivoire, the service targets three main chronic conditions: hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Tuteria connects people seeking to learn with people around them who can teach. Tuteria provides an online platform which allows users to find, evaluate, book and pay for lessons with competent local tutors, coaches, instructors and mentors.

The challenge was judged by: Ike Eze, head of PocketMoni and executive director eTranzact; Ime Archibong, director of product partnerships at Facebook; Rob LeBlanc, chief investment officer at the Amethu Project; and Terryanne Chebet, founder of Keyara Organics.

Africa News Agency

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