AM: Where did the idea for this contest come from?
JG: The contest came from a realization that an emerging tech sector, particularly in capitals around East Africa, were already changing the social and economic landscape of the region. The idea emerged from the need to recognize these great talents, and help catalyze a conversation between them and grassroots actors who need digital tools to help them change their communities.
AM: What do you mean when you say Apps, anyway?
JG: Within the context of this contest, an app is simply a digital tool. We are platform agnostic, meaning we are equally happy with an SMS tool as we are with a website or a smartphone program. The main thing we are concerned with is how this tool can be put to use to achieve real world goals.
AM: What are specifically the target areas mobile phones, or computer?
JG: Both. As more people get smart phones or at least dumb phones with data access, we are seeing a convergence between phones and computers.
However, there is still quite a divide so it really depends on which problem the app is trying to solve. If the goal is to reach a broad population, as SMS-based app might be appropriate, but if you want to perform a sophisticated function like processing and displaying health data, a computer program would be more appropriate.
AM: Do you supervise the development, or one can submit they alread built?
JG: We welcome apps that are already built. We don’t supervise development, but we do play the role of facilitator between community organizations that need tools and developers willing to work on them.
We also have recieved a phenomenol response from people around the world who have sogned up as mentors and would like to link up with a developer in the region.
AM: On what criteria will the apps be judged?
JG: there are four criteria. please see the list on FAQ page on the contest website, I can’t pull it up on this phone at the moment.
AM: Ok. Who is eligible to participate in the contest?
JG: Anyone who is living in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda or Rwanda.
AM: About how many participants are expected?
JG: We haven’t seen anything quite like this before in the region, so we aren’t quite sure what to expect.
However, in July we held events in Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali and the turnout and enthusiasm for the contest has been enormous.
AM: After such apps have been developed? Where are they applied? Do you sell them to giant corporations like Google, Nokia?
JG: No. Ownership decisions lie solely with the developers. Since this is a contest in the public interest we encourage, open source collaborative development. However, we recognize that some participants will prefer proprietary licenses and are happy to accomodate.
AM: How can one participate? What are the special dates people should bear in mind?
JG: Applicants can submit their app at code.apps4africa.org until August 31st. In late August we will host a series of hack-a-thons, opportunities for technologists to turn good ideas into good code. In September, we will host an awards ceremony where will will recognize the top apps, who will win their part of $15,000 in cash and prizes as well as chance to spend an evening with tech luminaries at the award ceremony.
AM: You were quoted on some website, that the contest is about giving citizens a platform to share ideas about how technology can help improve their lives. Would you tell us more about that?
JG: it’s really about getting low cost, easy to use tools into the hands of people who are already doing good work in communities. I’ll give you two quick examples (may want to hyperlink here) A project I’m working on called Map Kibera, is an effort to train youth leaders in the techniques of neogeography. What this means is that using consumer grade GPS units and free and open source software stack, these youth are making the first maps ever available in the community, and makin it easier for grassroots leaders ranging from teachers to gender violence responders to better plan for the future.
Another good example is a project called RapidSMS, a SMS based data collection tool that allows, for example, community health workers on rural Zambia to quicky aggregate critical health stats related to newborn babies.
These are just a few examples of collaborations between technologists and social change agents.
AM: Thank you Josh for your time! All the best with this contest!