23-year old university student Mack Marangu was declared winner of Save the Children’s Digital Innovation Challenge, during a winner announcement ceremony that took place on Friday night.
Mack walks away with a cash prize of Ksh. 250,000 and an opportunity to collaborate with Save the Children to customize and scale up his innovation and or get a 12-month fellowship program to develop and implement it further.
The journalism and mass media communications graduate who is also pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of London emerged victorious after successfully pitching and convincing a group of select judges in the technology, education and climate resilient and livelihoods space, that his innovation was indeed the best.
His innovation dubbed Toto Register, is a digital attendance system that is designed to take the daily attendance of students in Kenya. The system utilizes a mobile app that allows teachers to import student lists, mark attendance, and transmit the data securely to a backend server.
Speaking after he was announced winner, Mack said he was elated by the news.
“I hoped that I would win but never did I think that I would. It is such an honor to have this opportunity to show you what we are doing in Tharaka Nithi to protect children and to ensure they get constant and quality education. It is great to see what my fellow young innovators are doing and how this will have greater impact for children,” said an elated Mack.
Hot on his heels were KCA University student Gift Mumbi who was 1st runner-up for her innovation, Maoni Mtaani, a feedback mechanism system while Sydney Aurah was the 2nd runner-up for his innovation, Mwalimu Smart, a chatbot and SMS-based learning platform targeting children in pastoralist communities. The two will get Ksh. 150,000 and Ksh. 100,000 respectively.
“We received 163 submissions from across the country. From this, we were able to narrow down to 12 innovators who got a chance to pitch their innovations to a panel of five judges. We were extremely impressed by the caliber of entries we received for the digital innovations. It demonstrated the remarkable talent and creativity Kenyan youth possess,” said Hellen Owiti, Director for Programme Development and Quality at Save the Children Kenya and Madagascar Country Office.
The judges of the innovation challenge included, George Owiso, I-TECH Kenya Country Representative, Moses Okech, Masterspace Solutions Limited Chief Technical Officer, Mercy Shitolwa, Business Intelligence Solutions Developer, Clara Njeru, Researcher & Product Designer – Education Design Unlimited and Stephen Mutiso, Senior Climate Resilient Livelihoods Advisor with Save the Children UK.
Speaking during the award ceremony, Yvonne Arunga, Country Director for Save the Children Kenya and Madagascar Country Office expressed the organization’s commitment to leverage digital innovation in its programming.
“We are witnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by a convergence of technologies that are changing the way we do business, learn, and interact with each other. As the world’s leading child rights organization with a footprint in more than 118 countries, we have unparalleled strengths as an innovator. We intend to use these strengths to help tackle the most pressing issues for children today,” said Yvonne.
Echoing Yvonne’s sentiments, Evaline Momanyi from Save the Children’s Africa Advisory Board said digital innovation has revolutionized the world. She however recognized that even though a lot of strides have been made in the digital space for young people, women and girls are still finding it hard to penetrate the sector. She urged leaders to empower females to competitively develop their capacity in digital innovation.
“As a woman in fintech, digital innovation combines my passion, my love for children and my career in this space. I have seen firsthand how digital innovation can be a tool in solving the world problems from education, to healthcare, to financial services; digital innovation has the ability to harness technology and address society inequalities. I am happy that Save the Children targeted youth because they are the future leaders and their innovative ideas are needed for the challenges we face in the world today,” said Evaline.
The innovation challenge was launched on the 15th of December, 2022 and ran up to the 31st of January 2023. It targeted Kenya’s youth and students from institutions of higher learning and was aimed at recognizing and awarding 18-35 year olds who are innovative in tackling problems that are facing children and young people in the communities.
It offered an opportunity to the youth to come up with unique digital solutions to organizational level feedback mechanism, scientific or indigenous technology for strengthening community resilience and access to quality education for children born to nomads, out of school children, and boys and girls in informal settlements in Kenya.
“Our digital innovation challenge specifically targeted the 18 to 35 year olds because as an organization, we are very passionate about young people and the crazy, yet unique and smart ideas they have, to solve current world challenges. We understand that the youth have remarkable ideas and want to work with them to bring these ideas to life,” said Yvonne. “Working with the youth is also in line with our localization agenda of shifting power to the communities and in this case, young people in Kenya and giving them that power to come up with solutions to solve challenges that affect them, their families and the communities they come from.”
“Today’s winners demonstrated exceptional talent, creativity, and a strong commitment to provide technology-oriented solutions to a myriad of problems. We look forward to seeing how their ideas will shape the future of our programming,” concluded Yvonne.