Kenyan Girls Develop Apps To Address Societal Issues

Fredrick Ngugi October 13, 2016
Fredrick Ngugi October 13, 2016
Kenyan schoolgirls who have developed a bus ticket app. Photo Credit: BBC

A team of Kenyan high school girls has developed an app that helps travelers book their bus tickets remotely without having to stand in long queues at the bus terminal. Speaking to BBC, 16-year-old Harriet Karanja, who is a co-founder of the M-Safiri app, said the idea was inspired after she witnessed a robbery at a bus stop in the capital, Nairobi.

After narrating the ordeal to her school friends, they decided to come up with a simple way of reducing lines at bus stations, and the M-Safiri idea was born!

With the assistance of their teacher and mentor Damaris Muteti, the five students formed a team they called “Snipers” and enrolled in a mentorship program supported by Kenya’s largest telecom company, Safaricom.

“The app takes you to the bus stop you prefer using GPS technology, so you [just] need to go to a bus stop to board a vehicle, but no [longer have] to wait [in line],” Karanja said.

The team recently traveled to San Francisco in the United Sates to participate in a global technology competition for schoolgirls, where the winning team took home $10,000.

The Snipers came up short to a group of girls from Mexico who developed an app allowing people to volunteer for social work. The teenagers say they still plan to seek private investment once they graduate high school.

The team also thanked their mentor, saying she played a significant role in teaching them essential coding skills.

“We didn’t know how to code, pitch, [or] write a business plan. All this takes long to learn and it was a big problem for us,” Karanja explained.

Organ Donation App

Muteti is also mentoring another Kenyan student, Caroline Wambui, who has developed an app meant to help people donate their body organs to patients that need them.

The 17-year-old Wambui says she was inspired to develop the platform after losing her uncle to kidney failure.

“It took a long time to find a kidney on the black market, [which] was a tragedy for us, and [I] didn’t want another family go through the tragedy that we went through,” Wambui said.

With the help of her mentor, Wambui has created a prototype on a tablet and has already obtained partners who are willing to work with her.

Tech Opportunities in Nairobi

The Moringa School, a world-class coding accelerator with a direct education to employment model, boasts a 95 percent job placement rate and has graduated 110 students since being founded in Nairobi in 2014.

According to the school’s founder, Audrey Cheng, “The women who are part of our course are really great and they perform at the same level, if not better, than our male students.”

“I think the biggest challenge is just getting [women] in the door,” she added.

Cheng revealed that one of her female students is designing an Android app that allows a computer to control the movement of a toy car while a recent graduate has gone on to develop a real estate website that helps users source for better properties.

“We’re looking at expanding because we have applicants coming from over 10 countries on the continent. We know that there is a lot of demand for the work we’re doing,”Cheng explained.

The female graduates of the Moringa School currently work for companies such as Barclays, Safaricom, and Africa’s Talking.

One of the challenges that Cheng and her team have faced is being able to provide a world-class education at an affordable price.

The courses offered at the Moringa School are already heavily subsidized, helping slash the cost of the program, which Cheng says is valued at $18,000 in the U.S. market.

The school offers need-based flexible payment plans for the Moringa Core program, an intensive 19-week course that costs $1,200.

Last Edited by:Charles Gichane Updated: October 14, 2016


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