Personal experiences especially negative ones drive one to invent ideas to resolve the challenge, and in the process help others handle the encounter better in the future.
A misfortune experience is what motivated a Kenyan university student, Edwin Inganji- tech developer- to invent a distress or panic application to call for help when in danger.
One day while walking to the hostel, he was caught up in an armed robbery. He was beaten and bruised. He lost his laptop and mobile phone. The experience got him thinking and embarked on an idea that uses a phone to sound a distress call to emergency services of one’s location.
Usalama, a Swahili word meaning security, is a smartphone app that sends a distress signal to emergency services including the police, medical or fire authorities. The application is activated by shaking one’s phone three times holding down the volume button or tapping on the emergency icon. The next of kin and other Usalama users within 200 meters are also alerted widening the scope of help available to an individual in need.
Inganji and his three friends James Chege, Kenneth Gachukia and Marvin Makau settled on the idea and developed the app in 2016 at Nairobi’s Ihub.
In an interview, the developers told CNN they are increasing the app function to go beyond just sending distress calls.
"If you are going home late at night, you can set the app so that you and a friend make sure you return home safe. We're also introducing a timer where if you're not home, say within an hour, it sends a distress signal," Inganji explained.
The app also logs incidences reported by users, which can create a database to indicate “crime hotspots” in towns and cities.
Due to such ingenuous inventions supported by tech and innovation hubs, Nairobi was named the most intelligent city in Africa in 2015.
From left to right: James chege, Kenneth Gachukia, Edwin Inganji and Marvin Makau. All are between 22 and 24 years.
Image: DENNIS ONSONGO