A group of four innovators who have developed a security & health mobile application; Ntaasa Emergency System (NES), have reached out to Uganda Prime Minister; Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda seeking security clearance and funding for their innovation.
Ntaasa a local word to mean ‘save me’ is a solution that the innovators think will bridge the communication gap between public/people to the nearest service providers .i.e; the Police, Health Centres/Hospitals, Fire Fighters, Local Councils, and Red Cross.
It’s with no doubt, communication between the public and service providers is unlikely because they (public) have no way of reaching most of them if it’s not social media. The public sees social media as one of the best way to reach out to service providers like the police where the response is immediate at sometimes.
The team met with the PM in Nov. 2019 a month after completing the development of the application seeking security clearance and funding. When we asked why they needed security clearance, the app’s Co-Founder & CTO, Charles Thembo said;
“We’re dealing with national security and we’re going to have the geolocation of all security in the country. We could not do this without them knowing and allowing us,” Thembo told PC Tech Magazine.
The team received clearance from the PM verbally and NOT written.
“He (Ruhakana) gave us clearance though it wasn’t a written clearance. But this still gives us push to continue — as we can get the written document anytime,” says Thembo.
The team can now use geolocation of all police stations/posts and so far has embedded 40 police stations, with the biggest percentage being from Kampala.
The team has also added 24 health centres, 1 fire fighter (from Entebbe), and 1 LC1 chairperson (from Old Kampala). This totals it to 66 service providers with the team projecting to get as many as a thousand.
On the funding bit, the PM referred them to the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance (MoICT & NG). Charles says they reached out to the ministry following PM’s directive but they haven’t heard from them yet.
“We contacted the ministry through the Permanent Secretary MoICT & NG; Hon. Vincent Waiswa Bagiire for an appointment, who told us the request was sent through but till now from Nov. 2019 we haven’t received any response,” says Thembo.
The team says they are building the project to sell to the Ugandan government and not run it as a team project. Because the app requires use of internet and cost to call & send messages to service providers. Under receivership of the government, this would cost zero shillings; no internet required to use the app and toll free calls & messages.
“If the government takes on this project, all the services will be free of charge. You shouldn’t need internet to get in touch with police or a hospital when you’re in danger. This has to be free,” says Thembo.
The way the application works, it is first downloaded from Google Playstore. Apparently the app is only available for Android users. However, the team’s future plans as seen by PC Tech Magazine, is develop an iOS app as well as USSD for those with feature phones.
When you open the app, the user chooses a service and the system automatically lists the nearest providers in a radius of up to 5KM.
The nearest provider is listed first. However, the user can select any provider of their choice. On selection, it displays the phone number, address, distance and the direction to the provider. You can call or send a message.
Help can then be done with effect.
However, there’s a problem on the message bit. Most number collected are office lines that don’t receive messages. A message sent isn’t received by the service provider but stored on NES system logs. Hence, a data centre highly required.
The team Thembo Charles, Mugarura Martin, Ssemakula Ivan, and Owamazima Apollo seeks at least UGX2 billion to run the project. The money includes data collection, data centre set-up, hosting providers, requirements, among others.