The Kenyan mobile application scene was vibrant in 2012, with techies churning out multiple solutions in fields such as games and entertainment, agriculture, health, education, utilities and commerce.
Kenyan-made apps straddled the mobile arena, bagging regional and global awards in a year that local and international contests saw local talent develop more than 500 mobile apps.
A World Bank report released in December 2012 says ICT directly contributes seven per cent to Africa’s GDP, higher than the global average.
This is because in African countries such as Kenya, mobile phones give access to services that are beyond the traditional call and text functionalities - such as financial inclusion, agricultural and health information, radio and Internet access.
App: Tough Jungle Category: Gaming
Developer: Gerald Kibugi
Prizes won: Sh1.1 million; Safaricom AppStar Challenge Sh2.12 million ($25,000); Vodafone Appstar Challenge
An action adventure game set in an African jungle, it is complete with wild animals, rocky terrain, landmines and some extinct creatures.
Tough Jungle beat more than 500 submissions from Middle East and Africa to be crowned the ‘warrior app’ of 2012.
The player of the game is represented as a Maasai warrior who faces various challenges in the jungle, such as the Big Five (Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo).
App: M-Shamba Category: Agriculture
Developers: Gordon Owiti and Calvince Okello
Prizes won: Sh143,000 ($1,700); 2012 Innovate for Africa enterprise competition Sh100,000; agriculture category winner, Safaricom AppStar Challenge
It provides up to date information to farmers. The farmer-targeted solution covers the entire agricultural process in both crop and animal production from land preparation to harvesting, post-harvest handling, value addition and marketing.
The app was developed by two students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). Farmers can access information on breeds, feeding, diseases and parasites, production structures, products, product value addition and markets reports.
App: Ma3Racer Category: Gaming
Developers: Joe Murithi Njeru, Roger Tenenmberger, Fred Kioko and Jimmy Gitonga (Planet Ruckus)
Prize: Sh850,000 ($10,000); Pivot East
The application is a clever play on Kenya’s chaotic public service vehicle sector as characterised by matatus.
It is set on Nairobi’s busy roads where gamers need to employ all matatu skills — overtaking, driving at high speeds, overlapping — to collect passengers and earn points. Ma3Racer has grossed more than one million downloads globally — ranked popular in US, India, and Vietnam — and is available on Nokia Store.
AroundMe Cagory: Utility
Developer: James Mwai
Prize won: Sh8.3 million (€75,000); Nokia ‘Create for Millions’ contest.
The Kenyan app won the award at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress in February 2012, beating a field of more than 1,200 applications from all over the world.
AroundMe allows search for the nearest banks, bars, cinemas, restaurants, gas stations, book a hotel or find a movie schedule. It uses street address to give a list of locations and businesses in the area.
The app has grossed over 3.5 million downloads across Nokia devices, and is thus billed as Kenya’s greatest export to the mobile app world.
App: Eureka Category: Education
Developer: Gilbert Rono
Prize won: Sh600,000; Safaricom AppStar Challenge (runners up) Sh1.28 million ($15,000); Vodafone Appstar Challenge (runners up).
Runners up in the Safaricom AppStar Challenge and winner in the educational category, Eureka was the continent’s second best app for the year.
Eureka is an educational tool that learners can use to solve mathematical sums, from simple to complex algorithm functions.
The first year mathematics and computer science student at Jkuat is arguably Kenya’s newest undergraduate millionaire. Eureka works on any Android phone and Mr Rono is now working on porting it to other couriers like the Nokia smartphones, BlackBerry and iPhones and iPad.
Developer: Steve Mutinda
Prize won: Sh1.6 million (€15,000); Ericsson Application Awards
This app provides health-related information such as symptom checkers, a first-aid guide, doctor and hospital directories.
The mobile-based solution beat 143 other entrants from all over the world to emerge tops in Stockholm, Sweden.
MedAfrica features about 7,200 and 1,013 doctors in Kenya and Uganda respectively complete with their contacts. It also maps about 8,076 health facilities in Kenya and Uganda.
Developer: Mike Kivuva
Prize: Sh1 million; 2012 Nokia Hackathon
SkinSwap helps users change wallpapers using multiple animal skins.
The app beat 70 others in a 48-hour coding hackathon held in Nairobi in June.
Users can download animal wallpapers and make interbreeds of animal skins, for example, a lion can be dressed in a zebra skin and used as a background theme.