This Kenyan company has created Africa’s first video conferencing app

Ama Nunoo Jun 9, 2020 at 03:30pm

June 09, 2020 at 03:30 pm | Success Story, Tech & Innovation

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

June 09, 2020 at 03:30 pm | Success Story, Tech & Innovation

Photo: The Star

Many businesses have been shut and schools are still not in session in many countries due to the novel coronavirus. The current happening has made a Kenyan gaming tech start-up create Africa’s first video conferencing platform that has a better call quality.

The free to join conferencing system, Gumzo, meaning “chatting” in Swahili costs only $1 for the users who host meetings that has an unlimited number of participants in a call, which is more affordable than other platforms out there now, VOA reported.

Usiku Games used just eight weeks to create their own video-conferencing platform although the company’s primary goal was to make video games for the African market a few months prior to COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic.

The Nairobi-based company was also affected by the pandemic and only a few people reported to work in the office. It was during that time that Usiku’s programmers and coders raced to develop their own video conferencing app.

Usiku’s CEO, Jay Shapiro, said Gumzo is better suited for Africa because it can be used on different devices, which is very important for a continent that many people are using earlier versions of smartphones.

Africa is a mobile phone first continent and so you have to have a platform that works on mobile devices [that are] older, less memory and so that’s why we built a download app that is web-based and is accessible on all smart phones or PC or tablets to try and reach as many people as we can,” he said.

Gumzo is said to be one of the most secure platforms as calls are encrypted to ensure privacy.

“We are glad to have built this video conferencing system here in Kenya for the continent. This is a turning point in Africa’s innovation since our users will be able to enjoy lower rates, longer talk time and host many people at the same time without worrying about their security. We have invested heavily on security and creating a better experience compared to the overseas competition.”

According to Gilbert Walusimbi, a teacher at Upper Hill High School in Nairobi, who prefers using Gumzo to Whatsapp, Skype or Zoom, even with his video conferencing class hosting about 45 students on an average, the calls are clear and more stable.

He attributes it to the fact that Gumzo’s servers are in Kenya and South Africa. Unlike the other apps who keep their servers in China or in the USA meaning the signals must bounce halfway across the world to get to Africa thereby reducing the quality of the call entirely.

For Walusimbi, the only problem is that not all students have access to phones or the internet, coupled with the fact that the continent including Kenya does not have stable electricity.

An information technology expert at Makini School in Nairobi, Vincent Omondi, also expressed concerns on the digital divide in Africa being one of the major challenges as the continent is becoming more technologically advanced with emerging innovations like these.

“The latest statistics that we have in 2019 that was conducted by the International Telecommunications Union, 29 percent of the population in Africa had access to internet.

“After internet access there’s now the issue of device, the appropriate devices to use to access video conference software that would also play a big challenge,” said Omondi.

Nonetheless, regardless of the apparent digital divide in Africa, the gaming company, Usiku, hopes that the emergence of Gumzo is the start and might help make the gap smaller.

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