Open Skies Fellows: African Tech for African Data — Starting Small, Learning, and Scaling

By Hawa Adinani

Introducing Open Skies Fellows

Earlier this year, OMDTZ announced the commencement of the Open Skies Fellowship program — funded by Fondation Botnar and implemented by a consortium of OpenMap Development Tanzania (OMDTZ), Uhurulabs, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).

To select the first fellows, we organized a tech workshop in Tanga and invited interested youth to participate in a five days workshop. The workshop was a strategy to observe how the youth learn together, solve challenges, ability to teach others, taking leadership roles, etc.

We were able to identify four fellows, who are the first out of 40 that the project is aiming at. This blog features these fellows, their projects, and what they want to achieve. Their projects are listed below:

Automatic Standing Wheelchair for Persons with Health Impairment

Joan Mohamed, who is a young graduate of mechanical engineering from Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) is committed to using her mechatronic skills to support people with disabilities, especially with their movement. She is working on making the automatic standing wheelchair to help disabled people to be in a standing position ‘just by a click of a button’ as she says. This project will help people who are not able to afford imported standing wheelchairs, which are often very expensive to access locally.

Flood Simulation Model in Zanzibar

Latifa Khamis, a graduate of Information Technology from State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) with a background in geospatial data collection and Geographic Information Systems is working on creating a flood simulation of Zanzibar. Her project aims at making the data available for the government and different actors that are involved in flooding issues to make informed decisions based on the available datasets. Her focus is on the drainage situations in flood-prone areas as the primary cause of flooding.

Virtual Reality of Stone Town, Zanzibar

Mohammed Maisha, a graduate of Information Technology with Accounting from SUZA is committed to being the first person to create a 3D reconstruction of Stone Town, Zanzibar featuring different traditional beauty such as Forodhani and Ngome Kongwe with the aim of attracting more tourists. He is planning on creating the best possible interactive virtual reality of Stone Town.

“ I hope the program gets to more youth like me who are passionate and want to do different things around innovation and technology” — Mohammed Maisha, Open Skies Fellow

Creating a Drone Flight Controller

Julio Nyakunga, with a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Dar es Salaam, is designing his own flight controller for a quadcopter drone. Julio’s project is both unique and ambitious, and when we heard about his efforts to create his own flight controller we were blown away. In short, a flight controller is like the brain of the drone, it monitors and controls everything the drone does. He has already designed a circuit board, had it printed in Dar es Salaam, and is using open-source Arduino Software to build his code using the C programming language.

Julio is aiming to build a programmable flight controller that is simple to use and flexible to integrate with other electronic devices such as GPS Module and GSM Module — a customized Global System for Mobile communication. He also aims at supporting different people in the drone ecosystem to understand the engineering part of the drone and how it actually works by developing a step-by-step engineering guideline of how to design, build and program a drone.

Onboarding OSF first four Fellows in Zanzibar, Tanzania — July 2021, Photo by Hawa Adinani

The Open Skies team is looking forward to recruiting more youth who have tech ideas and innovative solutions in solving community problems, with the emphasis on women as participants and leaders. If you are interested or know someone who is interested, reach out to digna.mushi@openskiesfellows.org.

To learn more about the program, visit our website; https://openskiesfellows.org/

Using Open Data, Open Source, and maps to solve different socio-economic challenges.