South Sudan youth develop mobile Applications, appeal to Google to open Apps store for the country

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[UNESCO Juba] 26th April 2015:  Amazing innovation and creative minds were unveiled on Saturday, 18 April 2015 by the youth of South Sudan, during a colorful closing ceremony of the second training on YouthMobile applications development.

[UNESCO Juba] 26th April 2015:  Amazing innovation and creative minds were unveiled on Saturday, 18 April 2015 by the youth of South Sudan, during a colorful closing ceremony of the second training on YouthMobile applications development.

The well-attended event was held in the UNESCO Juba Office, which culminated to an exciting demonstration and sharing of six mobile applications, relevant to South Sudan context. Three students were awarded with smart phones and 3GB Internet modems loaded with mobile data by Zain South Sudan. Each of the 45 youth have also been appreciated with a 3GB internet modem from Zain.

This second training that took place from 8th to 18th April 2015 was organized by UNESCO and Zain South Sudan and in partnership with The Dev School based in Nairobi, as a follow-up to the Youth Mobile initiative launched in South Sudan in August 2013 when 43 young South Sudanese were first trained on how to develop mobile applications based on the App Inventor curriculum from the globally renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA).

During the closing ceremony of this second training, UNESCO Juba Head of Office and Country Representative, Mr. Salah Khaled, informed the participants that UNESCO is convinced that the mobile applications can play a big role as an interactive communication platform for the various sectors in this country. He further encouraged the youth to develop applications that can also empower people with disabilities in South Sudan.

Guests attending the closing ceremony were amazed by the skills gained by the youth in developing mobile applications, as they demonstrated and shared the following six applications developed during the two weeks training.

  • Learn English - A literacy application for adults that works offline, teaching South Sudan on basic literacy.
  • Rasa’il Salaam - A peace application that allows users to send messages of peace. These messages can be viewed by everyone who has the app installed on their phones and those who don’t can view it from a web browser. 
  • Know South Sudan - A game that quizzes the user on their general knowledge of South Sudan. The aim is to get the world and South Sudanese to learn more about the newest country.
  • First Aid app - This application gives information on first aid procedures and gives the user the contacts to the nearest health clinic based on their location.
  • Road Safety - An information application on road safety and traffic rules to help curb the numerous road accidents on South Sudan roads.
  • Agriculture app - An information application for farmers based on their location. A farmer can learn the best crops to plant and the conditions/input required. This is to grow to integrate information on market prices to allow the farmer to sell at the best price.

Faced with the challenge of registering applications with companies such as Apple, that have not registered South Sudan as a country in their apps store, Mr. Basel Manasrah, the CEO of Zain South Sudan, indicated that he will send a request to Google to open up the application store for South Sudan uploads. He further emphasized on the importance of developing mobile applications saying that “Development of mobile applications is extremely important but more important is the relevance and the content of these applications within the development context”. This push comes at a time when UNESCO is negotiating a global partnership with Google, which will make it easy to address such challenges facing  the member states.

The urgent need to establish a technology innovation hub in South Sudan for the youth as a laboratory to research and incubate information and technology ideas was repeatedly echoed by all the speakers. The students from University of Juba also emphasized the need to have a center where their creativity can be enhanced as well as serve as a research in innovation technology.

As an immediate follow-up to this training, some partners have already expressed interest in adapting and utilizing the applications developed by the students. UNESCO Juba Education sector will be organizing a competition for designing an application for teaching and learning literacy that can be utilized offline. The students agreed to also establish an online meeting platform, where they will commence discussions on how to continue sharpening their skills on mobile applications development.

The YouthMobile Initiative aims to empower youth with the high-level skills and confidence to create mobile apps that are locally-relevant and contribute to the reduction of chronic youth unemployment. The global objective is to engage at least 25,000 young people and sell at least 5,000 mobile apps by 2017.

At a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, encouraging innovation and creativity of youth of the world will be vital in effectively addressing these challenges.

To support addressing these challenges, YouthMobile is currently collaborating with two global programs.The Technovation Challenge is an annual initiative where more than 6,000 young girls from 30+ countries undertake a 3-month training course in apps programming, design, marketing, and entrepreneurship culminating in a challenge in Silicon Valley. UNESCO is supporting Telefonica’s Mobile4Change mobile app competition with Patronage, serving as judges for the education-related Apps.

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