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U.S. Embassy Hosts Hightech Workshop For Innovators

The United States Embassy is expected on Wednesday to host what it calls a brainstorming session in Harare for encouraging African innovators to develop mobile phone and web-based applications that promote job creation and link businesses with potential employees.

In a statement, Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy Sharon Hudson-Dean, said the session will set the tone for this year’s Apps4Africa Business Challenge competition which attracted 300 participants from 20 nations last year.

Hudson-Dean said the contest should inspire African innovators to develop mobile, web and desktop applications that also address youth unemployment in Africa.

Apps4Africa was launched in 2009 as a way to energize African innovators to work with civil society, private firms and other stakeholders to develop on the ground technology-based solutions to local problems.

Program facilitator Marieme Jamme and chief executive of Spoton Global Solutions said she hopes this year’s competition, sponsored by U.S. State Department and Appfrica International, would be a big success.

“In previous years, we held ‘app competitions’ which rewarded African innovators who sought to solve difficult local problems using technology,” said Jamme.
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The winners will receive prizes, mentorship and seed capital to help them start and nurture their businesses. They shared $75,000 in 2011 and $15,000 in 2010, laptops and mobile phones.

A Zimbabwean team won third place in 2011 and more are expected to take part in the completion this year.

The winning app – iCow – developed in Kenya allows farmers to track the breeding periods of their cows to maximize farm yields.

In the 2011 AppsAfrica: Climate Challenge, innovators were encouraged to tackle issues of climate change adaptation and the winner from Southern Africa was myHealth developed in Botswana.

The application helps users to take health precautions by providing information about diseases that are related to weather conditions such as diarrhea and malaria. It assists users in scheduling doctor appointments to receive appropriate care.

Zimbabwe’s UnsApp which came third creates a web forum to share adaptive management techniques for improving food security.

Since its inception, the contest has spurred the development of hundreds of applications across the continent, addressing issues from disaster preparedness to health and disease monitoring.