CMU-Africa Students Shine at the NM-AIST African Grand Challenge-Carnegie Mellon University Africa - Carnegie Mellon University

CMU-Africa Students Shine at the NM-AIST African Grand Challenge

CMU-Africa Students Shine at the NM-AIST African Grand Challenge

In January 2017, Carnegie Mellon University Africa (CMU-Africa) students won first prize in the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology’s Africa Grand Challenge competition in Arusha, Tanzania.

The theme of the competition was “The Impact of Digital Technologies on Healthcare Systems,” and it attracted students at both the master’s and Ph.D. level from different centers of excellence across the African continent. CMU-Africa was represented by Batanda Kayondo, Aimable Rema, Renee Kabagamba and Aline Gasana, who are all pursuing a Master of Science in Information Technology.

The team was challenged to develop a healthcare solution for Africa using data analytics. They identified a problem in Rwanda: the fact that while many hospitals have long queues of incoming patients and the doctor-to-patient ratio is low, most of the cases could be dealt with quickly through simple first aid methods.

The team developed a system that would enable healthcare workers stationed around the country to receive emergency calls. These workers could then distinguish between the cases that can be solved through first aid and those that instead require more extensive medical attention, allowing the latter cases to be forwarded to a hospital. This system would include training healthcare workers on first aid and would create employment opportunities for secondary school graduates.

The students won first prize for this system, which demonstrates how digital sensors, big data and analytics, robotics, and mobile cellphones can be integrated into solutions that will significantly increase the capability to provide low-cost, reliable, and effective transportation services in support of healthcare in Africa.

In addition to winning first prize, the CMU-Africa team was also afforded an opportunity to network with key players in the industry, such as Merck Pharmaceuticals, a principal sponsor of the Africa Grand Challenge. The team was exposed to different players in the tech field, and they were able to meet fellow students from around the continent while learning more about the financial aspect of developing digital solutions.

“We tend to forget the potential customer and to address the pain point,” says Kayondo. “The biggest takeaway from the competition was that it reinforced the need for tech industries to craft solutions based on the needs of the end users, and to find a way to involve them in the decision-making process.”

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