@iBizAfrica

Water management through the Internet of Things

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We live in a country where floods and droughts can plague citizens at different times in the same year. Add to that substances wearing down equipment and adulterating the water we drink and cook and bathe with. 40% of Kenyans are dependent on unsafe water sources such as shallow wells and ponds, and preventable diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene account for 40% of hospital attendance in Kenya. Water security is a constitutional right compromised by unanswered logistical questions of quality, supply and distribution. Leonard Mabele and his team at iLab Africa’s Internet of Things division is working to change that. Their Water Management project seeks to harness the potential of IoT to address the water problems that Kenyans face.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers an interesting proposition for the future of human life.

A well-implemented IoT network can radically simplify routines and improve our quality of life. Worked a late night and forgot to take your phone off silent mode? Well, imagine your home IoT noticing you overslept and waking you up with to rhythm of your favourite song. Imagine your house filled with the rich aroma of coffee that finishes dripping into your mug just as you step into the kitchen and see your automated curtains part to let in the morning light. A beeping comes from the laundry room—your washing machine-cum-drier has your clothes clean and ready for the day. A notification on your phone reminds you to refill the soap dispenser of your dishwasher and pick up fresh milk on your way home for tomorrow’s coffee. As you step out of the shower, the water pump clicks off and your phone notifies you that the water in the reserve tanks is enough for a week of regular usage. You then review your consumption and pay your water bill on your phone, and leave for the office clean, caffeinated and on-time as usual. The future is in interconnection.

For most, though, such a Jetsons-esque morning is a neat IoT concept that fa lls short of meeting the more pressing concerns of life, such as water security. Tweeting to complain about water shortages—and that the little there is is not clean enough to drink and cook with—is about as connected as water and the Internet seem to many of us.

The Water Management project of the IoT team at iLab Africa entails a network of devices monitoring water levels, pressure, purity, turbidity, flow rates, and consumption within homes. These devices not only communicate with each other but also upload information via a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) to base stations and on to dedicated servers.

The data collected is used to create value for water consumers. The team envisions citizens using their phones to access information on their consumption, assess and pay their bills, monitor water quality, and plan their water storage. With continuous water supply available from only 9 of Kenya’s 55 public water service providers, water consumers need to be able to manage their water more efficiently. Through an IoT, water pressure and tanks, pumps, individual taps and inlet valves can even be controlled remotely to control consumption—all from a smartphone application.

Entities such as the government, county authorities, and NEMA can also use the system to review information on public consumption and improve service delivery. The information flow is key to resolving the logistical issues. Water supply to different neighbourhoods can be planned for according to their consumption trends. Additionally, issues such as contamination and leakages can be monitored, isolated, and addressed rapidly.

The IoT team behind iLab Africa’s Water Management project is excited to roll out this cutting-edge solution to Kenya’s water problem. While the need for Internet communication raises valid questions on the energy demands and cost of connection, team-leader Mabele explained the cost-saving considerations behind the technology used in the project. The implemented LoRa LPWAN technology is specifically designed for low-energy low-traffic IoT communication over long distances. It has been implemented in the Philippines, Netherlands, and in Germany. The devices require only a little power to function and upload to base stations. The network itself utilises unlicensed bands that do neither attract high data costs nor interfere with mobile, television and radio signals.

iLab Africa’s Water Management project has the potential to bring the futurism of IoT to the homes of millions of Kenyans and play a key role in solving our water management issues. Its success just may be the light that illuminates the potential role of IoT not just as a fancy way to get around house routines, but also a practical tool for improving the quality of life of millions of homes.

Speaking about the current stage of this exciting project, Mabele describes it as being “in the infant stage, moving to a level where the kid can speak.” The team has the support of the government and NEMA in its initiative. A pilot deployment has been planned to take place in Limuru this August, with future expansion plans for Nairobi and Naivasha.

For more information on iLab Africa’s Internet of Things Water Management project, contact Leonard on lmabele@strathmore.edu

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@ILABAFRICA RECEIVES GOOGLE GRANT

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The Digital Learning unit @iLabAfrica in Strathmore University has received a grant by Google. The team led by Regina Nkonge, and Philomena was awarded this grant after responding to a call for grant applications in the area of Computer Science (CS) Educator Professional Development.

Award of the grant follows a proposal to introduce Computer Science Concepts in high schools in Kenya. The 2018 Educator Grant awards in Europe, Middle East and Africa is committed to growing the confidence of new and future Computer Science educators.

The @iLabAfrica project targets secondary school teachers and will comprise of three components:

1) Two 5-day workshops for secondary school teachers from Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos Counties. The workshops will be held in Strathmore University during school holidays of December 2018 and April 2019.

2) A national teacher conference will be held in August 2019 at Strathmore University, aimed at designing best practices in teaching and learning CS in secondary schools.

3) An online Community of Practice will be launched. This is aimed at encouraging teacher collaboration, creating and sharing open education resources (OERs) hence empowering each other, serve as a collection of teaching ideas and best practices and trigger teachers’ reflection on their own teaching methods and how to improve them.

The project is geared towards improving teaching and learning of CS in secondary schools, hence encouraging the uptake of Computer Science at tertiary level.

“We have selected different CS topics which correspond to the Kenyan curriculum, this will allow for direct integration into the subject to enhance student’s learning”, says Miss Philomena.

The benefit is directly to the students by offering exposure to CS concepts in an engaging and fun way, and, exposing them to possible career paths in the field This will equally see a rise in the number of Computer Science uptake in Universities

@iLabAfrica, KAM, GIZ launch jobs portal

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The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) through @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University has launched a portal where job seekers and industry players can link to create synergies. The Jobs portal was unveiled during the launch of the first ever TVET Job Summit in Nairobi, the site that will act as a direct link between industries and job seeking technical skills graduates.

The portal was developed in partnership with German Development Cooperation through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) E4D/SOGA – Employment and Skills for Eastern Africa.

The portal which was designed by @iLabAfrica, Strathmore Univeristy is set to host job opportunities from businesses and industries and targets job seeking graduates from technical institutions.

Speaking at the KAM Job Summit, @iLabAfrica Director, Dr. Joseph Sevilla mentioned “It is great to see industry and education sectors come together to create job portals for the youth. These developments create employment opportunities for the youth by linking their skills to the right jobs and eventually growing the economy of the country. ”

Chief Administrative Secretary, Labour and Social Protection, Mr. Abdul Bahari noted that the mismatch between skills possessed by graduates of training institutions and those demanded by industry is one of key reasons behind the high unemployment rates in the country, especially amongst the youth.

Manufacturing is one of the pillars in the Government’s Big Four Initiative, which seeks to increase the manufacturing share of the country’s GDP from 8.4 percent in 2017 to 15 percent by 2022.Intertwined with the growth of manufacturing, is the Government’s goal of ensuring adequate employment opportunities for its citizens.”

 

Also present at the summit, Principal Secretary Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Dr. Kevit Desai reiterated the importance of the role of industry in creating opportunities for technical skills graduates, “Industry has a role to play in creating sabbatical for our trainees. We are at a time in this nation that we must look beyond technical issues, we must consider national values, cohesion, attitudinal issues and must be inculcated as a standard for international competitiveness.”

KAM Chairlady, Ms. Flora Mutahi noted that the job site will provide grounds for industry to meet its much desired skills for growth. Adding that, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change global definitions of work, labour and production and eventually disrupt traditional work processes.

“The job portal is the much needed intervention that industry desired to have direct linkage to technical skilled graduates. It is also an opportunity for business leaders and industries to collaborate with institutions to grow the employment ratio in the country,” said Ms Mutahi.

Also at the event, GIZ Country Director Mr. Stephen Opitz emphasized the GIZ engagement towards the development of technical skills in the country.

“Through GIZ E4D/SOGA programme, we aim to train about 12000 youth, and purpose to place about 7000, of the trained youth, by 2019.The portal will be a valuable platform that will easily connect employers and potential talents. That is why we are partnering with KAM to make this happen,” added Mr. Opitz.

Industry remains a big contributor to jobs creation, which is a major driver for economic development. The President’s Big Four Action plan highlights the manufacturing sector as a priority sector in transforming the lives of Kenyans through job and wealth creation.

 

@ilabAfrica and Atlancis Technologies sign partnership in Information Technology Research and Development

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Mr. Daniel Kinyua, CEO Atlancis and Dr. Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica Research Centre

@ilabafrica, Strathmore University and Atlancis Technologies  signed a strategic partnership focused on cutting-edge research into the next generation of information technology.

The partnership signed by @iLabAfrica Research Centre will allow Strathmore University and Atlancis to jointly explore and provide direction for academic researchers and technology experts in Kenya to collectively innovate and develop applications in research areas such as energy, banking, healthcare, education and transport among other sectors as well as champion development of local technology ecosystem.

The focus of this collaboration will be on the emerging technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain Technology, Cyber Security, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Services.

‘The next frontier of research is clearly going to be driven by technology, and universities must nurture relevant linkages with industry to make this happen. In this way, the research output coming from universities will resonate with the needs of industry’. says, Dr. Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica Research Centre.

‘Atlancis’ decision to collaborate with Strathmore University will keep the two partners as the country’s leaders in big data. This initiative is good news for Kenya’s technology base, universities and the economy’, reiterated Mr. Kinyua, CEO, Atlancis Technologies.

The MoU was signed by Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director of Strathmore’s @iLabAfrica Research Centre and Mr. Daniel Kinyua, Chief Executive of Atlancis Technologies.

KIAMBU COUNTY BEGINS TRAINING OF  THE NEW CASHLESS SYSTEM FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF REVENUE COLLECTION

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Kiambu County through @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University on May 2017 began training of Cashiers and IT officials in the County Revenue offices in its various sub-counties. The move is aimed at eliminating the use of ‘hard’ cash to pay for parking fee and market fee, this will ease congestion and save on the time of issuing of receipts by middle men. The cashless system will also be helpful in registering small businesses and reduce long queues of people waiting to be served in the Revenue offices.

The trainings are conducted in various sub-counties of Kiambu. “Our team will train for a day and return for a follow-up the next day. This helps us to gauge how receptive the officers have been to the system in a specific sub-county,” says Mark Gatheru of @iLabAfrica. The training is both theory and practical for the implementation of the system.

So far training is complete in 6 sub-counties. Thika, Juja, Gathunguri, Ruiru, Kiambu, Limuru and Lari- Kabete. Mr. Gatheru of @ilabAfrica mentioned that they plan to be through with the remaining 5 counties by June 2018. Depending on the schedule of a sub-county the duration of training may take a shorter or longer period, for example, in Thika the training took up to 6 days. Consequently, in Limuru the training took a day.

“There is an online portal where the officers and cashiers that we train can look up information if they encounter a problem with the system” says Mr. Gatheru.

During the launch of the cashless payment system the Kiambu Governor Hon. Ferdinand Waititu mentioned that he was impressed with the new system, “The new system will help in saving up-to 46 million shillings per week.”  Governor Hon. Ferdinand Waititu

The cashless system developed by @iLabAfrica targets all the 47 counties. So far, Kilifi, Busia, Mombasa and Taita Taveta counties have began the trainings.

 

Smarter Transportation solutions for African cities

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@ilabAfrica was this week pleased to host Professor Tierra Bills an Assistant Professor and Michigan Society Fellow in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Bills was visiting to give a lecture on, An Electronic Travel Data Collection Tool for Nairobi Kenya with the ultimate goal of designing Smarter Transportation solutions for rapidly developing African cities.

Like many other African cities, Nairobi is now grappling with the challenges of rapid urbanization. Kenya’s population has increased by 55% over the last decade, and this combined with significant rural-to-urban migration in Kenya has resulted in critical stress on Nairobi’s limited transportation infrastructure.

To mitigate these transportation issues, Nairobi County Government had proposed a plan for (formalized) mass public transportation across the region. The challenge is the lack of adequate transportation data for investigating travel preferences of Nairobi travelers.

For Nairobi, there is currently no on-going data collection system or periodic program effort to investigate the activity-based travel behaviors of Nairobi residents. This can significantly constrain the ability Nairobi transportation planners to investigate (via scenario analysis and forecasting) transportation solutions that will address Nairobi’s multimodal transportation needs.

To gather enough data Dr. Bills is working with a team of Kenyan students (software development and computer science) to design, prototype, and test an electronic and multi-source travel data collection tool.

The preliminary data collected with this tool will be used to refine the data collection tool for future region-wide travel studies in Nairobi, Kenya. Further, this tool would be a significant contribution to researchers and planners interested in implementing data-driven transportation policies and traffic solutions in African as well as other developing cities. Given that such a transportation data collection tool has not been developed for Kenya before, there are many interesting research questions involved with this project.

This project will require students focusing on the following areas: • SMS frontend application • Android front end application among others.

The data collected from such initiatives would be used to estimate (the first) activity based travel demand model for the Nairobi region. In addition to generating a dataset for these modeling purposes, a parallel objective would be to distill a general framework for delivering reliable travel survey data using a hybrid of electronic data collection sources. This hybrid approach could then be replicated for other African and developing cities.

Professor Tierra Bills Bio is working on the project in collaboration for Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica – Strathmore University.

Dr. Tierra Bills. Dr. Bills is an Assistant Professor and Michigan Society Fellow in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Michigan. She has recently joined the department (in Fall 2016) after spending 3 years as a Research Scientist at IBM Research Africa. While in Kenya, Dr. Bills also lectured at Strathmore University’s iLabAfrica and taught MTI 8203 Research Methodology for Application Development. Much of Dr. Bills’ research focuses on investigating the social impacts of transportation projects.

For more information write to john on jolukuru@strathmore.edu

 

 

Nairobi Tech Week

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Nairobi Tech Week is Back!

iBizAfrica together with Moringa School is excited to host the 3rd Edition of Nairobi Tech Week, Sub Saharan Africa’s largest tech event, whose aim is to bring all actors and influencers in the tech ecosystem in one space, fostering conversations and learning around various relevant technology-related topics.

The event will be taking place from Thursday 19th April to Saturday 21st April 2018 at iBizAfrica, Strathmore University. This year’s theme will be “The Role of Technology in Problem Solving for Africa’s Future.”

Nairobi Tech Week presents a 3-day event packed with panel discussions, workshops and a hackathon with incredible prizes to be won.

“Our aim is to launch a community-driven tech event focused on developers, thought leaders within the tech space as well as the best innovations in Sub Saharan Africa” says Sandra Mukidza, NTW’s main event organiser.

 

For the first time, Nairobi Tech Week will host Nairobi Tech week Awards, in a bid to recognise companies playing influential roles and driving impact within Silicon Savannah.

​The title sponsor this year is Microsoft , other sponsors include Visa, Facebook, Safaricom JUMO, Github, Liquid Telecom, Google and iBiz Africa-Strathmore University.

 

Several key organisations have come forward to partner with Nairobi Tech Week; iHub, Africa’s Talking, Swahili Box, AngelHack, M-Power, CBO and Metta. In previous years Nairobi Tech Week has had global title sponsors like Facebook and Twitter

 

Applications for Nairobi Tech Week opened on March 19th 2018 as well as nominations for the Tech Week Awards.

Apply for your ticket to this years Nairobi Tech Week 2018 here and also place your Tech Week Awards nomination here.

For more information contact Bernard on bchiira@strathmore.edu