Assistive Technologies for People with Disabilities (PwD) in Somalia

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At SIMAD iLab, we help make a positive impact on Somalia and the world through entrepreneurship and our extensive startup ecosystem.

Published Date :

December 14, 2021

Time to Read :

8 Minutes

Tech-Empowered Hackathon for PwD

People living with disabilities (PwD) experience numerous unusual challenges in Somalia just to live and lead their lives. The challenges are not limited to inclusion but accessibility to all kinds of activities in different spheres of lives. Addressing issues effecting PwD requires bottom-up approach, people-centered, and innovative solutions.  

To do something about this, we joined forces together with UNDP Somalia’s Accelerator Lab,  Abeer foundation, and Premier bank to a Tech-Empowered Innovation Hackathon for People with Disabilities (PwD), an innovation bootcamp for developing new assistive technologies for PwD in Somalia. The hackathon was inspired by SDG 10 of reducing inequalities. This was aimed to reduce all forms of inequalities faced by PwD in Somalia and to make sure they are not left behind.

Group Photo

Nearly 150 applications successfully submitted their applications with potential solutions towards the theme of the innovation camp. In the application, all application were required to submit a short video clip expressing their passion and interest to the program, proposed solution to the theme, and future plan after the innovation camp. Due to the limited available resources, we carefully selected 45 young innovators to tap into their skills and ideas for supporting the PwD.

Over 5 days of intensive innovation camp, a team of expert mentors from SIMAD iLab and UNDP Somalia have mentored eight teams of young innovators, students, and engineers from different backgrounds made up from the selected 45 applicants. Divided into eights teams, they generated different viable and feasible innovate tech-empowered solutions to intervene the different challenges of PwD in Somalia. All the teams embraced and adopted the design thinking approach to ideate against the different challenges by specifically applying the Nesta Collective Intelligence Playbook.

To ensure there was an element of empathy, the teams were able to interact with different guest speakers and visitors from several civil society organizations (CSOs) those have interest in people with disabilities. Among them were Aamina Mohamed Duuro from Somali Association for Females with Disabilities and Ismail Ahmed Yusuf from Al Bashir School for Blind People who shared their routine experiences as people living with disabilities.

The proposed solutions for PwD?

Team #1 - they were majorly focusing on innovating for blinded people with assistive technology by using smartphones. The team developed iCAAWI Mobile App that connects blind individuals with volunteers through virtual assistant and physical assistant. The App offers features to sing up as volunteer to help PwD through chat or video calls.

Team #2 Somali Mobility Services (SMS) worked on developing smart wheelchair with umbrella and desk to protect the users from harsh weathers and create convinces for them by using the wheelchair.

Team #3 ii-Sahal team has developed a smart pillow that supports physical disabled people those use wheelchairs. The pillow can also be used by people who took long time sitting on a chair to massage their back to relief pain. The pillow also has lifts to support mothers feeding kids while sitting on a chair.

Team #4 has been tackling the challenges of physical impaired peoples those who have difficulties in switching switchboards in indoors. The team developed a prototype, Smart Lighting System, to ease switching the lights by clapping or by using voice for wheelchair users.

Team #5 has worked on developing ANFAC App, a mobile application that assists deaf people. The app offers learning opportunities, sends notification about natural or manmade emergencies and volunteer interpreters.

Team #6 created a mobile app, Dajiye, that supports people dealing with mental health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety. The features of the app include storytelling, motivation, meditation, and exercises to the users. These features are designed to assist the users struggling with such issues.

Team #7 created a prototype of smart walking cane to help blind people facing navigation difficulties in movement from spot to another to enhance their safety. The cane will be equipped with sensers to detect the dangers surrounding the user. These dangers can be stagnated water or objects on roadside, or a wall.

Team# 8 developed a portable device for blind people to identify surrounding objects and read text. The device will be able to translate image into text and produce audio output to user in seconds to facilitate the daily lives of the user.

The winners

During the last day, all teams pitched to a selected jury from the partners of the innovation camp. All the teamed presented and showcased their innovative solutions. The jury included Mohamed Okash from SIMAD iLab, Kalso Abdi from Abeer foundation, Hodan Abdullahi from UNDP’s Accs Lab, and Ahmednor Muse from Primer Bank.

The Jury

After rating and scoring the pitches, the jury selected the best five teams for the awards. All the teams will be given an opportunity to join SIMAD iLab’s incubation program to transform their prototypes into real businesses.

After long deliberation, the prizes were awarded to the following teams by the jury:

1.     The Most Innovative Idea was awarded to Team #8 who developed a text-to-speech app.

2.     Most Potential for Impact was awarded to Team #6 with the Dajiye mobile app.

3.     Most Inclusive was awarded to Team #5 with their Anfac assistance application for hearing impaired people.

4.     Most Advanced Idea was awarded to Team #3 of ii-Sahal Pillow for supporting people with physical difficulties.

5.     Best Pitch was awarded to Team #4 who created a smart lighting system that eases switching the lights by clapping or by using voice for wheelchair users.

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