How Safaricom has changed the technology sector through innovation

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Technology and innovation. Image from http://hdimagelib.com/innovation+technology

Safaricom celebrated their 15 years in the telecommunications industry on October. These 15 years have been braced with a lot of milestones that made them the top telecommunication company in Kenya. Their biggest contribution after seamless mobile network signal and reach has been encouraging innovation from young people in the Kenyan Tech space. These are a few things they have put in place to encourage young people to innovate.

Technology and innovation. Image from http://hdimagelib.com/innovation+technology
Technology and innovation. Image from http://hdimagelib.com/innovation+technology

1. Appwiz challenge

The Safaricom Appwiz Challenge is a three month long accelerator program that has been design to help developers who have an interest in mobile ICT. It is based in iBizAfrica at Strathmore University where the finalists are mentored, trained and incubated. This ensures that the startups are able to develop their prototype solutions in a comfortable environment so that they can emerge as strong ICT businesses. The challenge is currently in its third edition and has so far launched 30 tech startup solutions.

2. Zindua café

This is a web-portal that allows a registered user to submit ideas applications or prototypes to Safaricom for possible deployment. They suggest for you to first secure your application, prototype or idea by protecting its intellectual property in Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).

The process is very easy, just register, submit and review it and it takes a maximum of three weeks before they get back to you with a verdict. If your idea is really good, they offer you a non-disclosure agreement and commercial contract and implement the idea.

3. Safaricom Foundation

The Safaricom Foundation was established in August 2003. Its mission is to build communities and transform lives. It established a Ksh. 50 million innovation fund dubbed Technology for Good that is aimed at growing social innovation locally. The fund beneficiaries would be organizations/institutions, individuals and businesses that use any or all facets or technology e.g. app, voice and data.

The selected applicant will be incubated for three months at Strathmore University’s iLab. Successful applicants will receive mentorship, technical support, mentorship and expert training relevant to the success of their innovation. Five innovators will be selected at the end of the three months and will move to the next stage where they will be helped to upscale their ideas. The applications are closed for now.

4. University sponsorship

Safaricom has partnered with universities to help them spark innovative ideas. The Technical University of Kenya benefited from a Safaricom sponsored innovation laboratory dubbed ‘TechAvenue’ that was worth ksh 225 million. The money was in the form of up to date equipment and installations to be done by Safaricom.

The students will also be able to receive hands-on training at Safaricom facilities which will impart the students with job experience and even take academic tours. This is because of the definition of their key areas of partnership which are innovation, securing the input of industry practitioners and professionals into the training, and academic exchange programmes.

5. The Safaricom Academy

It was set up in 2010 in collaboration with Strathmore University. It offers a 2 year Master of Science Degree in Mobile Telecommunications and Innovation programme. The course is designed to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the ICT sector. So far it has taken more than 85 students and has had 5 intakes so far. The students are offered partial scholarship where the students only pay ksh 15,000 instead of ksh 115,000 per module.

6. Spark Venture Fund

This is a fund set up to be available to mobile tech startups in Kenya. It has been launched for an initial two year period. Its aim is to address hurdles that mobile tech startups face such as cost and ability to access a platform where they can test their solution.

Eligibility requirements are:-
• Startups must have a functioning product or service with an active user base
• They should provide a use-case showing market potential
• They should have a team that is capable of achieving the goals presented
• The startups should be based in Kenya

The successful candidates receive between Ksh 7 million and Ksh 22 million for a minority stake in their startup. Sendy, a local delivery startup was this year’s beneficiary.

7. M-Pesa Academy

The foundation was established in 2010 and has established a school called M-Pesa Academy. The academy which will be opened in January 2016 will operate with the same model as the Starehe Centers and will take in economically disadvantaged students with leadership potential. It will first take in 90 students but hopes to have a capacity of 800 students by 2019. It aims to rethink how studies are conducted in schools as it will be driven by leadership, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation.

The students will be able to sit for the KCSE examination at the end of the 4 years s they will still be KNEC compliant but will emerge with a lot more because of the transformative education that will be taking place.

8. Ground breaking solutions

Safaricom has come up with a lot of ground breaking solutions for example Sema Doc app. This was achieved through a partnership between Safaricom, Commercial Bank of Africa and M-Health provider Hello Doctor. This application is a healthcare solution that is available entirely on mobile phone through M-Pesa and M-Shwari. It gives users access to doctors from the comfort of their homes and one can get the diagnosis and prescription via SMS. There is a monthly subscription fee of ksh 300. You will be able to access micro-health funds of up to ksh 10,000 for unexpected medical expenses.

9. Collaboration with startups

Safaricom collaborated with a startup called Dynamic Data Systems to come up with the M-Ledger application. M-Ledger is an easily accessible mobile money accounting service that lets users monitor and manage their past transactions from a single-view on their mobile devices.

Safaricom intends to collaborate with other startups and developers to come up with applications that can fill a gap in the way we carry out our daily activities. It is with collaborations such as this that the local technology ecosystem continues to grow.

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