By Louise Fenner
IIP Staff Writer
January 27, 2012
Innovative ideas for managing grain supplies in Tanzania and for helping hospitals in Nigeria prepare for natural disasters won top prizes in the Apps4Africa Climate Challenge. But the competition isn’t over yet. It moves to Southern Africa starting February 1.
Apps4Africa challenges software developers to create applications for mobile phones and computers to help communities cope with the impact of climate change. The competition encompasses three regions of Africa, and the first two regions — East Africa and West and Central Africa — competed late last year. In addition to Tanzania and Nigeria, there are winners from Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Uganda.
The U.S. State Department is sponsoring the competition in partnership with private sector and nongovernmental organizations. The results of the Southern Africa competition, which lasts through March 21, will be announced in April.
The first two regional competitions had a combined total of nearly 200 entries, said AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Science & Technology Fellow Jeffrey Fox, who coordinated the Apps4Africa Climate Challenge for the State Department.
The State Department and Appfrica International, the software development company that ran the contests from its offices in Uganda and the United States, screened the entries to make sure they addressed climate change adaptation, and then sent the relevant submissions to five independent judges. The winning applications were chosen based on their technical ingenuity and their ability to have a measurable impact on climate change adaptation.
“So many [applications] sounded like incredible ideas,” said Fox. “There were a lot of very strong entries.” In the East Africa competition, the winning applications “support ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, which in the region is a huge issue,” he said.
In the West and Central Africa region, “the [application] winner dealt with disaster management and health care” — issues that frequently came up during local brainstorming sessions held in connection with the competition. The sessions brought together software developers, students, nongovernmental organizations, business people and others to identify climate problems and propose solutions.
“Applications that address the challenges that are most important locally are the ones that end up being selected,” he said.
WINNERS IN EAST AFRICA AND WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
In the East Africa competition, first place went to The Grainy Bunch, a national grain supply chain management system that monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.
Mkulima Calculator of Kenya took second place with an application that will help farmers decide when to plant crops and how to select the best crops for a given location using climate and weather data. Third place was awarded to Agro Universe, a mobile and Web-based app from Uganda that creates a regional marketplace, helping communities prepare for pest- and drought-induced food shortages by linking these communities to farmers with available produce.
In the West and Central Africa competition, first prize went to HospitalManager, a Web-based application from Nigeria that will help hospitals plan for increased patient loads following extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves. Hospitals can identify patterns in patient visits during weather emergencies and use real-time climate forecasts to prepare for such situations and save more lives.
Second place went to the Eco-fund Forum, a Web-based app from Senegal that helps communities share successful strategies for adapting to local impacts of climate change. The third-prize winner was Farmerline, a mobile and Web-based app that will help farmers in rural Ghana obtain information they need to increase yields in the face of changes in the growing season and climate variability.
The top three winners in each region receive cash prizes, and private partners are contributing follow-on support. The competition is open only to residents of Africa, but people and organizations outside of Africa can register as mentors and provide their expertise to applicants.