Last week’s annual Engineering Students’ Exhibition in Nairobi showcased 150 projects on ICT and alternative energy from universities in six countries, across three continents.
Students from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Canada and the Philippines displayed their innovative software and hardware. But e-voting and electronic vote tallying applications garnered the most attention, demonstrating how technology could have averted the bloody chaos that followed the controversial general election in Kenya early this year.
“Laptops and mobile phones offer a better system of monitoring the elections; everyone now has a phone,” said Quentin Papu from the University of Nairobi, who developed vote tallying software for handheld devices as part of a school project.
Using the software, Papu explained, agents at polling stations would log in to their mobile phones with a unique user ID and password to enter presidential and parliamentary results, which would then be relayed to the Election Commission of Kenya headquarters in Nairobi.
Nimrod Kibua and Juliet Kamau from Kenya Methodist University also impressed event judges with their e-voting system and were declared winners in the mobile category.
“The event has showed the determination by students within African universities to use technology to improve the way of life,” said Kevit Desai, the event’s organizer and a member of the Kenya ICT Board.
Abdelkareem Abdelrahman from Khartoum University was recognized for a sign language voice translator, while a SMS (Short Message Service) for the visually impaired by Julliet Mutahi and Frederick Omondi of the University of Nairobi won an award.
Edwin Keverenge, also from the University of Nairobi, was recognized for his project on green cell-phone chargers, which demonstrated that a lack of electricity should not be a hindrance to accessing mobile phone services.
Demonstrating their determination and commitment, the students narrated how they had to battle with lecturers that failed to appreciate new technologies, faulty lab equipment, and the challenge of developing unique and locally applicable technologies.
One major legislative challenges is posed by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute, which recognizes hardware but not virtual property. This leaves the software development and services sector vulnerable to violation.
Other winning projects included a virtual interactive campus map by Irene Berochan from Makerere University, a community development monitoring system by Peter King’oo from Kenyatta University, an online application system by Joseph Balikuddambe and Benna Kagawa from Makerere University, and a document finder by Samuel Kuriah and Steven Mutungi from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.