Apps targeting job seekers and farmers win Safaricom awards


The Mkulima app team (from left) Denis Nyaga, Lorvinia Onduko and Joe Ogutu. PHOTO | COURTESY

Mobile applications targeting job seekers, farmers and easier trading in stocks were winners of this year’s Safaricom AppWiz Challenge.

Lynk, a mobile application which provides a platform for people in the informal sector to meet potential employers and seek job opportunities, bagged the Sh1.5 million first prize.

Created by Adam Grunewald, Erick Obiero and Sharon Macharia, the platform aims at providing an easy to use, affordable and reliable platform to connect thousands of workers to people in need of on-demand services ranging from plumbing and electrical work to gardening, painting and car repair.

“We envision a world in which everyone can enjoy job security, fair wages, a safe work environment, and the opportunity for career growth. Additionally, for a household, hiring someone for a job should be safe, convenient, and fair,” said Lynk in a statement.

Innovative solution

This year’s edition of the Safaricom AppWiz Challenge attracted more than 320 applications in four categories including Customer Engagement, Product Excellence, Mobile Convenience, and Out of the Box.

The competition, launched in July, saw 13 finalists selected to join a three-month incubation programme which began in September. Joseph Ogutu, Safaricom’s Director of Innovation and Strategy, said the competition has grown significantly since it was launched in 2013.

“Given that the issue of unemployment remains a source of concern for Kenya’s economy, we have seen Lynk provide an innovative solution to the hundreds of thousands of young people looking for jobs in the informal sector,” said Mr Ogutu.

The prize money is in the form of grants which will go towards growing the winners’ start-ups.

This year, Mr Ogutu said, saw innovators present a more refined set of ideas to the panel of judges, coaches and mentors. Hisa Play, a game which simulates trading on the stock exchange and equips users with skills to invest in bourses, took home Sh1 million as the 1st runners-up.

Stock trading

Hisa Play mirrors real time stock trading. It uses system generated currency to familiarise and equip players with practical financial literacy skills required to trade on the bourse.

According to the developers of Hisa Play, will enable users to understand how to invest, why, when and in which stocks one should put money for profitable returns on investment. The app runs on numerous android platforms and can be played either individually or in a group.

“We aim to educate, equip and familiarise young people with practical financial literacy skills required to trade on the securities exchange by using mobile gaming applications,” said the founders in a statement.

Mkulima App, a solution which helps farmers reduce harvest wastage and track incomes, was third with its developers taking home Sh500,000. Kenyan farmers waste away about a third of their harvests.

The app also helps farmers track the quantity of produce over a period of time.

Spur growth

The application is being piloted among tea farmers. The developers plan to expand it to other farmers in the coffee, milk and pyrethrum sectors, among others.

“This will help meet 80 per cent of collection schedules and reduce produce wastage to 10 per cent. It will see a sustainable, productive economy with high profits for farmers,” said Denis Gikundi, one of the Mkulima App developers.

ICT ministry PS Victor Kyalo said the competition proves that Kenya has a wealth of creative people with ability to develop relevant, home-grown technological solutions to the country’s challenges and needs.

“This Safaricom initiative is proof that partnership and co-creation can spur Kenya’s growth in ICT by connecting young innovators to the business community and consumers, thereby supporting innovation and creating employment,” he said.

The competition saw 13 finalists coached and mentored by ICT experts.

Winners were selected based on the sustainability of their applications, creativity and ability to scale them up.