The Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) Africa Information Technology Initiative (AITI) 10th edition ended on a high note with a business competition at Strathmore University in Nairobi
iCheki, a system that commuters can use to track matatus (mini buses popular in Kenya) and buses coming their way won US$3,000 (Kshs 240,000) in the 2010 MIT-AITI mobile programming business competition held at Strathmore University on 30th July. The system was conceptualized by the Xrystalgenius group made of DBIT (Diploma in Business Information Technology) graduates: Joseph Kivuva, Alex Nyika, Kelvin Yonga and Dominic Mativo.
iCheki is derived from the sheng slang spoken in Kenya. Cheki means see in sheng. So iCheki is seeing through the phone. Using the system, commuters can know how far the next matatu is from their location and predict how long it will take to get to them using the GPS (Global Positioning System) and LAI (Local Area Identity) systems on mobile platforms. The system can also be used by freight managers to tell the location of their vehicles at any time. The group said they will use the money they won to develop the system further.
Alex Nyika who made the captivating presentation in the session also recently won the 3rd Strathmore University Mobile Boot Camp developers competition. See: http://www.strathmore.edu/News.php?NewsID=312
The highly competitive AITI Business competition attracted great IT business solutions from 12 teams made up of attendees of the four week course. MIT-AITI course. Runners up at the competition included IntelCourier and Ultimate solutions who presented mobile courier solutions and mobile survey systems respectively. They each won US$1,000.
IntelCourier had earlier on won US$300 (Kshs24,000) in a 60 seconds Pitch session that was used to pre-qualify teams for the grand competition. The company is being nurtured in the Strathmore Innovation Technology Transfer (SITT) incubation program, having been selected at the December 2009 pitch session.
The Africa Information Technology Initiative (AITI) is a student-run organization in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that promotes development in Africa by cultivating young technology entrepreneurs.
The program was celebrating its 10th anniversary in Strathmore University where the program was piloted for Africa in 2000. AITI develops curriculum materials, software technologies, platforms, and networks that enable African undergraduate students to innovate in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Initially, the program focused on the internet and computer penetration in Africa, but with the need and advent of mobile telephony, the focus has been directed to mobile application development. In the 2010 edition, the program partnered with the Safaricom Academy that was running its program in the University to enable attendees develop market oriented programs and products. Applications were developed to run on the android platform, one of the latest mobile phone developments.
In addition to the mobile application programming technical curriculum, the course builds entrepreneurial skills by incorporating marketing and research aspects for the students. Lecturers with expertise in the Kenyan technology market teach the entrepreneurial part of the course.
Since 2000, nearly 100 MIT student/teachers have instructed over 1200 African students (and instructors) in ICT technologies. The organization has expanded its programs to four additional countries namely: Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia. It has also expanded into high schools with programs at Alliance High School, Kenya and Achimota School in Ghana.
By Nick Walubengo