Larry Akah, a Buea based software engineer is finalist for the 2017 Africa prize for engineering innovation
Despite coming from an internet deprived city, Akah and his team braved the odds with their award-winning app called Traveler.
Akah Harvey Larry, 24, is an engineer from Cameroon’s fastest growing tech innovation ecosystem now under government internet ban. Before the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, the enthusiastic tech prodigy, has been successful at the Google Summer of Code 2015, Champion at Africa Android Challenge 2014, winner at Grand Prix de l’Innovation in Cameroon among others.
Akah’s Traveller app mimics the operations of airbag deployments in cars to detect and act in case of an impact with the car. The app tracks user location, speed, weather, tilt around the car and can offer predictive analysis about potential incidents the car might get involved in. Using big data and machine learning, all the data collected by the app is used to provide useful insight to users and clients about driving habits and standards.
Speaking on the challenges in creating the app, Akah said the app came up at a time when part of the country was plunged into Internet blackout. “This made it very slow and difficult to get data about usage from our users. Although the app still records data offline, we still needed Internet connectivity to sync the data. This has been a top challenge”.
“To improve on the system, we needed to hire a few engineers within Buea, but again, due to human capital migrations caused by the Internet blackout, that couldn’t happen and so we still struggle to get things done ourselves”.
The Africa Prize for innovation encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development. Crucial commercialisation support is awarded to a shortlist of innovative applicants through a six-month period of training and mentoring.
It should be noted that a Cameroonian, Arhur Zang won last year’s innovation price. Arthur Zang’s innovation, the Cardio-Pad, a small tablet device that allows any medical professional to perform heart diagnostics at any location, earned him prize money of 21 million FCFA. Arthur Zang competed against three other finalists at the final pitch event held in Dar es Salaam on 26 May 2016.