Tracking app gives parents peace of mind on child whereabouts

Mwana Systems CEO Ovin Awitty during the interview at his office in Nairobi yesterday. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

Every parent with school-going children would want to return home after a busy day at work to find their child safely back from school and if not, at least they are assured of their safety on their way.

But what would you do if your child does not show up after 5pm or beyond?

Ovin Awitty and George Kilibwa, both 29, and actuarial science graduates from Maseno University, have the answer for you.

Mr Awitty, the Mwana Systems chief executive says they offer a solution to such worries as a parent (or guardian). Mwana is Swahili for child.

Last June, the two, with the help of a French and Kenyan developer, came up with an application to track a child’s whereabouts from the moment one boards the school bus to and from school.

A parent gets up to four text messages a day with the bus’ registration details after their child boards it to school, when they alight upon reaching school and the same is done after school hours during a pickup and drop off at the designated points. If the bus stops along the way, one is also notified.

“Mwana Systems app ensures that you (as a parent) are constantly informed of your child’s whereabouts. You are able to track the school bus at any place, any time of the day, leaving you with less worry as you go on with your daily duties,” said Mr Awitty, who quit his job as medical underwriter at Alexander Forbes in 2011 to go into self-employment.

“We believe such a tracking system gives you peace of mind throughout the day as you are constantly aware of your child’s whereabouts,” he says.

In the event of heavy rainfall with traffic snarl-ups, especially in towns, or other unforeseen delays such as vehicle break downs, the parent is able to monitor every location of the bus even when the driver decides to change route.

For one to use the app, the parent and school need subscribe to the Mwana Systems for a basic or premium package that comes with a digital gadget dubbed Mwana reader, digital wrist band and a digital back pack tag.

The Mwana reader devices are manufactured in France and the company hope to produce them locally and create jobs.

Every child enrolled in the system through their school, gets a wrist band and the digital tag that’s fixed on their bags just in case they lose either.

Mr Awitty explains that the school bus driver gets the Mwana reader gadget that is used to swipe the wrist band or digital tag whenever a child boards the bus or alights from the vehicle. The device then sends an SMS alert to the parent.

“This saves the parent the trouble of calling find out if their child arrived in school or not and it is efficient with zero downtime since the reader can sustain up to three days of uninterrupted power,” he says.

The mobile app which will be available first on the Google Play Store in March — then other operating systems, comes with an added value under two different platforms —Mwana-Medic and Mwana-Guardian.

Should the need arise, a child’s medical information is easily accessible on Mwana-Medic by scanning the wrist band or the tag attached to the back pack. This is crucial in case of a medical emergency. The service is offer on the premium package.

Mr Awitty told the Business Daily that they are finalising talks with the Kenya Medical Association to possibly have all the registered doctors subscribe to the app.

He adds that the feature could come in handy in diagnosis and treatment of the affected child during an emergencies because one’s medical information would be readily available and accessible on a smartphone.

“Official data shows that nearly 98 per cent of Kenyan doctors use smartphones and the technology used in this app will enable any authorised medic access a child’s medical history through their Mwana systems wrist band or tag and in the long run save a life if the kid has a chronic ailment through accurate diagnosis,” said Mr Awitty.

He says by the end of the year the company aims to have the Mwana-Medic app installed on smartphones linked to all registered doctors and institutions such as the Red Cross and St John Ambulance.

A school administrator and nurse would also access the app in cases of medical emergencies.

The child’s medical biodata would include emergency contacts, any allergy, blood group, chronic conditions and family doctor’s contacts if any. Insurance details would also be provided, says Mr Awitty.

At the end of the line, the parent, through the Mwana-Guardian platform, is notified in real time and prompted to contact the school for further assistance. The basic package allows the tracking of the pupils when they enter and leave school, he says.

The Mwana reader is given to the gatekeeper at school and through the wrist band or tag, a pupil is required to sign in and out of the each time one enters or leaves the compound.

At any given time, the school will always be aware of the number of learners present or absent in the learning institution.

Mr Kilibwa, the Mwana Systems chief operating officer, says the app idea came about after the two partners lost Sh1.5 million to a conman in September 2014 in a botched Sh4 million ‘tender’ to supply staff ID cards.

This forced them back to the drawing board and they decided to invest in the innovation business with Sh1 million as start-up capital from their personal savings.

The incident happened soon after he had just resigned as an investment analyst at the Actuarial Services East Africa, to join Mr Awitty in self-employment.

“During this tough times an idea of informative business platform hit us and we decided to leave the competitive business and venture in innovation,” said Mr Kilibwa adding that they have been friends since 2005 when they joined Maseno University.

Mr Kilibwa says they have so far injected about Sh1 million into the development of the app and hope by the end of the year, they will have reached more than 30 schools.

They have already approached institutions such as Strathmore School, Hillcrest Academy, Moi Education Centre and Nairobi Academy, among others, that are warming to the idea.

The Mwana Systems package costs between Sh600 and Sh1,500 per student per term.

“We are currently doing robust social media awareness and also going to schools during parents’ day providing public education to stakeholders.

“For the first one month, parents and schools enjoy free installation of the system,” says Mr Kilibwa.

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