FIVE students from Strathmore university and one of their friends from the University of Nairobi are shaping conversations across major media platforms in the world after coming up with a security Application (Usalama App) that allows an individual to send a danger alert to atleast three members of his or her inner circle through a creatively developed panic button. The students have already featured in BBC, Guardian, UK Business Insider, Face2Face Africa, New Internationalist, Brits in Kenya and Playground mag-Spanish.
Edwin Inganji 22, Daniel Kimotho 23, Kenneth Gachukia 24, Marvin Makau 23, James Chege 22 all from Strathmore University’s Computer Science and Information and Technology class and Felix Kanyi 22, a medical student at the University of Nairobi(UoN) resolved to come up with the innovation (Usalama App) after noting an increase in the trend of insecurity in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi.
According to the team leader Edwin, a fresh graduate from Strathmore university, the six met while still in second year of study to discuss possible ways of curbing the rising insecurity issues after surviving a robbery where he lost his mobile phone and laptop. He says, they thought an application would be a sure way of helping so many souls in the city and probably citizens across the whole country. The young computer scientist also noted that the team had a desire to participate in the annually held Safaricom Appwiz Challenge and thought it wise to come up with such an Application.
“My personal story was a mugging that happened when I was in 1st year. It was 7pm and I was walking to my hostel from school. Darkness had began to creep in and I wanted to be inside my hostel within 10 minutes owing to the fact that it was close to school. Before reaching the hostel we had to go past this wall that was part of our neighbor’s compound. The wall created a blind spot such that if you were coming from one side there was a whole portion of the way ahead which you could not see until after passing the wall. As I was moving past this wall I was suddenly hit in the gut. The pain was searing and it spread through my lower abdomen so I bent clutching my tummy. When I raised my head, I saw four men surrounding me. They were screaming at me to lay down and keep quite. One of them snatched my backpack that had my laptop, while the others were doing a body search taking all valuables they could find. All the time I was concerned for my safety. One of them had a gun. It ended abruptly just like it had started.
As the four men were sprinting away with my belongings I felt my lower abdomen for blood and I was glad there was none. I began walking to my hostel with half a limp as my pain faded away and my mind began to ingest what had just happened”, Edwin narrated the story to Magazine Reel.
“I always kept thinking, what if they had shot me and there was no one to help me. I would have needed emergency response urgently and would probably have not gotten it as quickly before I bled out. To get emergency help, I would have to first contact them, describe my situation and describe my location. This would be wasting away few precious minutes I might have to receive help. Yet this was not the only story, a few days later after the incident a colleague of mine got shot three times while he was running away from the muggers. He was lucky enough to get help and was rushed to hospital. He survived to tell the tale but the outcome could have easily gone the other way”, he continued with the story behind Usalama App.
Usalama App acts as a panic button by alerting local security, medical, and fire authorities in case of an emergency. The App allows one to quickly send a distress call to the nearest emergency providers agents, other Usalama users within a 200 m radius, family and friends.
The App requires the user to either long press volume down or shake the phone to open the app and tap on the icon describing their emergency on the home screen of the app. The user is given a chance to add further details if they choose to but if they don’t the distress is sent. The distress sent will contain the user’s current location, their emergency details and the three nearest police station from the victim plus their contacts (of the police station). This distress is sent as an Usalama notification to the phones of the respective parties. Once they open it, the victim is given feedback on who has seen their distress.
The App currently boasts of over 3000 users with important partners including St Johns Ambulance and Nairobi Women’s Hospital GVR section. The team is also engaging with private security firms and road rescue companies to offer their services through Usalama.
The team has already been shortlisted and is set to represent Kenya as 2016/2017 finalists of the African Prize for Engineering and Innovation. It’s a very competitive program that only select 16 African Entrepreneurs out of the thousands of applications. The competition runs for six months (currently ongoing) and ends with an award ceremony in an African city. This year’s finals will be held in Nairobi, Kenya. The winner will be awarded 25,000 sterling pounds and first to third runners-up 10,000 pounds each.
Edwin says the Usalama team is more than confident that they will bring the trophy home and make Africa proud. The team says, once they’ve been able to drive a lot more users from within Kenya, they will scale to the whole of Africa and the world. This he says, Usalama will realize in the next 5 Years.