The first  contest was held in 2012 as a small competition to inspire innovation centered in Africa. Today, the worldwide participation in these awards has thrust Appsafrica to the forefront of innovation.

As entries from 21 countries have spread across the globe in three different continents, only the most effective apps continue on to become finalists in the awards, which are to be held this year in Cape Town Nov. 16.

The awards celebrate technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. Applications were accepted from July 20 to Sept. 7, and no one except the most innovative developers produced apps valuable enough to proceed onward. Below are just a few of the front-runners of this year’s Appsafrica Innovation Awards in each category:

  • Women In Tech – Most notably, Emefa Kpegba has invented the OMobileFunding app, which is a mobile and web service that attempts to improve the lives of Togolese people through microfinance participation.
  • Social Impact – Charlie Wandjii is the founder of 1task1job; its effect on society is an ingenious way of providing stable jobs in an unstable continent. By posting a project that needs completing on the mobile/web service, a job is given to a freelancer who is regularly utilized by the app.
  • Best Educational Innovation – Bookly is an app aiming to increase literacy rates in Africa. This innovation solution is a mobile web service that allows anyone to share a story of his or her choosing so long as it’s appropriate. After being published, those who use the app may then read a “bookly” anywhere, serving as reading practice.
  • Best Health Innovation – The Medical Concierge Group has developed an app that suggests a management plan allowing easier access and affordability to quality health care using an archive of data. This group is a Ugandan-based organization that began in 2012.
  • Best African App – mPaper is an easy-to-use innovation that allows quick access to news sources and magazines to those who use the app.
  • Best Mobile Innovation – M-vender is an entrepreneurial app that lets people sell airtime, electricity and offers other financial services to its users.
  • Best Non-Data Mobile Innovation – Safermom is an app that keeps in touch with new and expecting mothers, sending SMS messages that give helpful information on low-cost mobile phones.
  • Best Fintech Innovation – Mergims is an app that allows financial aid to be sent to individuals in Rwanda, which is the birthplace of the app itself. This is important because it allows migrants workers a way to send funds to their loved ones at home.
  • Best Disruptive Innovation – Picup is a mobile app that picks up whatever you need and brings it to you. Its application for exchanging resources between rural communities could help to solidify a stable means of quick transportation if development continues.
  • Best Entertainment Innovation – myMusic is a Nigerian-based app that lets its users stream music for free, connecting rural regions with urban culture.

As mentioned above, these are just a few of the finalists revealed for the 2015 Appsafrica Innovation Awards. A full list is available on the website.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: Appsafrica, Picup, MyMusic, Mergims, Changemakers, Mvendr, Mpaper, TMCG, Bookly, 1Task1Job, OMobileFunding
Photo: Aps Africa

Some of the biggest opponents to foreign aid believe that aid given out will not have the impact the projects set out to have. While case studies in Europe, Asia and some African countries show the positive impacts that foreign aid will have on struggling economies, there is still always doubt that the international community can make a positive impact.

The Impact Genome Project was announced in April of 2014 to look at how programs will impact the communities they set out to help. The Project was introduced by Jason Saul and Nolan Gasser, two scholars who are prominent members of the Mission Measurement Corporation. The corporation advertises itself as “the world leader in measuring social outcomes,” and this new project will draw on the existing database the company has in efforts to predict social impacts.

The hope is that this Project will make foreign aid more efficient and allow the international community to learn more about what they can do to encourage emerging economies. Jason Saul, the CEO of the Mission Measurement Corporation, says “we’ve been working to improve the world by changing the dialogue around social impact… creating a literal ‘social capital market.’” While Saul may be espousing a wildly optimistic viewpoint, the hope is that the project will bring about a substantial stage in the social advocacy discourse.

Moreover, the way this project works may be difficult for some observers to understand. Saul and Matt Groch, another Mission Measurement executive, compare their project to Pandora’s Music Genome Project, which used listener preferences to predict songs they might like. Using a number of factors such as capacity, cost and consistency, as well as metrics concerning the number of people likely to be affected positively and the cost to affect each of those people. Mission Measurement hopes that the combination of these considerations will measure social impact as easily as a bank can evaluate a loan.

The project carries a great amount of promise for the future as we look to bring the world forward into a flourishing global economy, yet there are some doubters over the project’s potential. One writer for the Guardian newspaper points out that, “establishing benchmarks on costs-per-outcome can be reductive and inaccurate because they are changing so rapidly.” The worry is that outdated information will promote inaction rather than positive impacts.

The Impact Genome Project has a big goal ahead of it, and it will surely be judged harshly by some sectors of the international community. If the Project can give some additional clarity that will help bring down the number of people living in extreme poverty, then it can surely be considered a success. The Borgen Project and organizations like it continue to work to reduce this number as well. The hope is that the Impact Genome Project will be another great ally in this fight against global poverty.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: The Guardian, Business Wire, Stanford
Photo: The Guardian