Calling all app developers! Africa wants you...
There aren’t too many apps out there that are designed specifically for the African market. But who better to develop one than an African consumer?
ForgetMeNot Africa's Optimiser Platform has been deployed by eight operators in six countries across Africa, and provides 60 million people across the continent with access to internet-free Facebook, email and online chat. In addition to Kenya it has been deployed in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde, Lesotho and Republic of the Congo.
Through this platform, aspiring app developers have the chance to see their ideas launched to millions of mobile phone users in Kenya through a competition launched by ForgetMeNot Africa, Safaricom and iHub, a developer community in Nairobi.
Entrants can develop apps that reach users of all handsets via two-way SMS and USSD, from first generation mobile phones to the latest smartphone. Developers can use any programming language for their entry.
The winners will receive seed capital to develop their ideas, an Apple iPad and, if successful, their apps will be launched to Safaricom's 15 million subscribers across Kenya, which have benefited from the Kipokezi service since May 2010. The apps will earn the developers an ongoing revenue share.
Developers must first register through the ForgetMeNot Africa site. They can then use a selection of ForgetMeNot Africa resources, which include tutorials, sample code including an example of an online calculator. This shows developers how to combine the basic features of the API to create simple 2-way SMS applications.
The app can then be tested by linking it to the Kipokezi platform using the range of test numbers provided.
“Even in the most rural areas Kenyan people are using SMS to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world, but SMS applications add a new dimension,” says Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ForgetMeNot, Jeremy George.
“Even on a basic handset, SMS applications can provide access to healthcare, travel and education information. Industry specific apps, for example an agricultural app, could provide people with agricultural techniques, weather information, market pricing, soil cultivation, cropping activities and new product and distribution information.
“The potential for apps is massive, and we hope to see developers using the ForgetMeNot Africa Optimiser Platform to use existing tools and infrastructure in smarter and more efficient ways to help improve peoples’ lives.”
Although the company expected to have received around 50 entries for the Apps Challenge by the time application closed on 23 March, George says that it is by no means the end of the road. “This competition is about inspiring developers into action, and if their idea is good enough they’re welcome to build and submit their apps after the deadline.
“While they won’t be eligible for the competition prizes, if it’s a great idea it will be considered for launch on the Safaricom network and the developer will be able to derive an ongoing revenue stream from the application.”
African Business Review is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”