Mozilla awards Sh 1 million to tech startups in Uasin Gishu

Six start-ups from Uasin Gichu County have been awarded Sh1 million through the Mozilla Mashinani tech-innovation challenge.

The six received the award during a workshop for tech-startups and students held in Eldoret in a challenge which was launched by Mozilla Africa Mradi and the Gladys Boss Foundation (GBF).

They include Tindo – a video on demand platform, My Shule app, Mche, Mama Fua, Lifeline, M-Rafiki and Gavo Foods. Besides the funds, the six will also receive training on how to improve their ideas and products.

Speaking during the awarding ceremony, Mozilla Corporation Senior Director, Ms Alice Munyua, said that the six were awarded following their innovative and transformative ideas. 

The Mashinani Initiative, according to Mozilla, aims to democratise Kenya’s technology and innovation ecosystem and level the startup playing field, particularly for youth outside metropolitan cities. 

“Mozilla is expanding efforts to build with and not for African communities while promoting models of innovation that are empowering, inclusive and grounded in the unique needs of users in the African continent,” said Ms Munyua.

She added that the initiative is anchored on the Mozilla Africa Mradi, which seeks to catalyse innovation through developing new and deeper relationships with in-region partners to learn more about the intersection of African product needs, and capacity gaps.

“Critical to this global majority programme, Mozilla is working with local partners to better understand the landscape, local needs, expertise, context, and capabilities, to co-create, while building a community with a critical mass of local partners that see Mozilla as a trusted partner and guide to a healthy and joyful internet,” she said.

Ms Gladys Boss, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly said that the idea was to ensure that youth innovators across Kenya also have access to the information and knowledge needed to establish and run profitable startups.

“The Gladys Boss Foundation (GBF) is working with Mozilla’s Africa Mradi to ensure that tech innovators outside Nairobi and metropolitan counties have equal opportunities and platforms to showcase their innovations, are exposed to how venture capital investments work and are trained on startup accelerator opportunities available to them in the continent and globally,” she said. 

Tindo is a video on demand platform that targets filmmakers from various communities in the region who are producing indigenous films.

My Shule on the other hand, is an application that helps to safely transport students to school and back home in time through a live bus map. The map allows parents, guardians and teachers to know when the bus is coming, when a child arrives in school, and when they are heading home.

Mche offers a comprehensive solution to smallholder farmers, providing them with advisory services on the best crops to grow in their respective geographical areas.

Mama Fua is also a mobile application that links households to trained and vetted housekeepers, providing safe, convenient and automated access to cleaning services.

Lifeline on the other hand, provides quick access to critical medical information during emergencies and to support individuals with disabilities and those unable to communicate on their own behalf.

M-Rafiki is a platform for people to connect and interact while also being able to access services and businesses that they may need.

Gavo Foods manufactures gluten free-keto organic flours that will help break the cycle of poverty and lifestyle diseases and support smallholder farmers.

Ms Munyua said that the Mashinani Initiative will culminate in the first-of-its-kind Mozilla Africa Mradi innovation challenge to be held in Nairobi in June 2023. 

The innovation challenge will identify and support tech entrepreneurs and startups and tech students through an acceleration programme that will provide technical support, access to grants and ultimately, market access for their products.

Kenya has over the years been ranked the regional ICT hub of East Africa, with the country being a leader in broadband connectivity, and general ICT infrastructure and home to more than 300 tech start-ups.

With the rise of digital technology and the internet, many entrepreneurs have leveraged investment opportunities from venture capital institutions that have set up shop in Nairobi.

In June last year, Mozilla Launched a course on data privacy for SMEs in Kenya to increase their awareness and capabilities on the use and management of data collected in their day-to-day business operations.

The online course, Lean Data Practices (LDP), will be hosted on Udemy, an open-source online courses provider, and is designed for startups and SMEs who lack adequate knowledge about data privacy and security when handling personal information for customers/clients.

Many of these startups also need to be better informed about Kenya Data Protection laws in order to protect their ideas and enterprises and to also operate within set regulations.

“The reality of the current economic situation in Kenya and globally is that we are now more digitalized than ever, and at the same time, consumers are now more conversant with their right to privacy hence the need for small enterprises to be deliberate in protecting their businesses and most importantly, the personal information they receive from their customers.

“LDP will help them understand key terminologies such as personal data, multi-factor authentication, and data lifecycle and apply these terms to their businesses, distinguish data in their businesses that could, if used in the wrong way, be harmful to others,” Ms Munyua said.

The adoption of comprehensive data protection regulations in Kenya has strategically positioned the country into becoming a safe haven for the collection of personal data over the next decade.

As the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner raises awareness about data protection and enhances its enforcement capacity, compliance with data protection laws will become more urgent for data handlers in the country.

“Lean Data works in any sector: business, civil society, government. It can be spearheaded by any department: marketing, advocacy, engineering, product, design, compliance, privacy, legal, and customer support. You don’t need a technical degree or a dedicated budget. All you need is a commitment to make data decisions thoughtfully,” she added.    (BT)

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