UN-Habitat, Ericsson and Strathmore University select Kiambu County for pilot project to address urban challenges in KenyaNairobi, Tuesday 29th September 2015 – Kiambu County has been selected to be part of a pilot project seeking to incorporate youth in developing and implementing technological solutions to solve urban challenges facing the country. Dubbed Urban Hackday, the event took place from Friday 25th- Saturday 26th September, and hosted youth from around Kenya together with experts in the field who gathered at Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica to develop technological solutions that can be used to improve urban areas.

The Urban Hackday is part of a larger project known as the Innovation Marketplace, a pilot program being undertaken by UN-Habitat in collaboration with Ericsson and @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University to develop, test and implement technology solutions together with youth and county governments in Kenya.

With oversight from mentors from local government, technology companies and urban practitioners, participants who were in teams formed, around four major challenge statements developed in conjunction with the county under four main focal areas; local economy, city planning, urban basic services and local governance.

The event attracted over 40 participants, five county representatives from Kiambu and five mentors. MatQ emerged the winners with their innovative web and mobile application to improve the governance and management of matatu (local bus) stops in Kenya. The application aims to make interaction between matatu SACCOs, local government and travellers easier.

Second placed were Smart Reporters. They designed a web based and mobile platform for work evaluation based on county residents’ feedback on service delivery. It is aimed at solving the problem of poor service delivery. Auto Tech were number three with a web and mobile application that aids in data collection with analytics and visualization. Examples of data being collected include water and electricity consumptions to aid the county in planning purposes. This is because the current mode of data collection is bulky, cumbersome, with human error and lacks visualization.

The best solution was decided through a judging panel composed of experts from UN-Habitat, Strathmore University, Ericsson and prolific entrepreneurs and will be incubated at @iLabAfrica for the rest of the year towards developing it to a prototype that can be tested at the county level to improve their processes. Speaking about the event, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, said: “Youth make up an increasing part of our urban fabric and must be seen as development partners if we are to build truly sustainable cities.

This project seeks to connect young voices, often marginalized and from informal settlements, with governance and meaningful participation, using ICT as a tool.” Robert Rudin, Country Managing Director, Ericsson Kenya said: “By 2050, about 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to reside in urban areas. This explosive growth combined with the rapid uptake of broadband creates new opportunities to address economic, environmental and social challenges.

Ensuring that African cities are connected and sustainable will improve the lives of millions of people. We are therefore excited to see the ideas of these young innovators that could potentially transform how we live, play and do business.” The Innovation Marketplace is aimed at working together three key dynamics in our world today: the growing number of young urban citizens, ICT proliferation and the devolution process. These three are set to change the functioning of cities and their sustainability, a core mandate and focus of UN-Habitat.

The devolution process in Kenya presents opportunities for advancing innovation and making use of ICT to foster good governance promoted by youth. In addition, it could yield a methodology on structured, result-oriented and scalable action that can be applied across counties. A methodology builds bridges between youth, county governments, the private sector and local tech communities for the purpose of creating a more sustainable, just, democratic and equitable devolved system of government and improved service delivery.

Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director of Strathmore—@iLabAfrica Research Centre said “The Centre is pleased to collaborate with the UN-Habitat and Ericsson in the Innovation Marketplace project that seeks to build capacity at the county level in Kenya around the use of ICTs as a tool for good governance and youth engagement. We are happy to provide support to the winning team through our incubation program at @iBizAfrica, which provides a nurturing environment that builds on the potential of the youth to develop ICT solutions that work for the common good in society.”

Participation in the hackathon was open to all with various programming, coding, design and other technical skills and those with an interest in urban planning, marketing, social change through an application process, which closed on 11th September. Selection of participants was jointly done by UN-Habitat and Strathmore to ensure a good mix and balance of skill.