Makerere students win award for mobile appointment booking app

Saturday August 20 2011

By DICTA ASIIMWE

Three Makerere University students who developed a mobile scheduling system are the winners of Orange Uganda’s inaugural Ushs 5 million ($1,800) Tertiary Institutions Technology Innovation Award.

The mobile application will enable customers of hotels, beauty salons, spas, education institutions and health centres to schedule their appointments beforehand using their mobile phones.

Charlotte Andinda, one of the designers, says they first designed the application to ease the queues endured by Makerere University students at the School of Engineering; with the help of Orange, they have now adapted the application to cover other service providers.
“Few of us have personal computers and as a result there used to be queues for the iLabs,” she says.

Orange Uganda provided the financing and expertise to the students to adapt the applications to wider public use and will fund others such as the Integrated Farm Records Management System (iFARMS).

iFARMS is a web-based application used for farmer records management by co-operative societies and extension workers. It can also work as an advertising platform for farmers.

Farmers who send short message questions using their mobile phones to the co-operative society will also receive quick answers.

While relevant to Uganda’s agriculture dependent economy, iFARMS lost out on the first prize because it depends on a co-operatives structure that died when Uganda’s public service was restructured in 1992.

iFARMS is not outdated as such; it is just that Uganda is still in the process of trying to revive its co-operative sector.

iFARMS is however, likely to survive in the market because as runners-up, Orange Uganda will support the student developers to deploy their application into a real life environment. The third prize winner will also be helped in developing his application at Orange.

Harriette Kasirye, the head of corporate affairs at Orange Uganda, said the awards were part of the company’s plan to use their expertise in communication to offer sustainable innovative services to Uganda.

Orange recently launched the mobile high definition (HD) voice calls technology. HD Voice eliminates background noise in voice calls and provides excellent speech quality for those with HD-enabled phones.

Eric Pontoizeau, head of marketing at Orange, said HD phones depend on 3G+ and can only work if the caller and receiver are both in a 3G+ network area and have HD-enabled phones.

Orange first introduced 3G+ mobile Internet in Uganda in 2009, setting off a trend that would soon become the industry standard. Pontoizeau says Orange will soon cover every part of Uganda with 3G+.

Most of Uganda is already covered, except for areas like Karamoja and Tororo in the east.