Last evening, the MTN Innovation Awards 2017 were held at Serena hotel to celebrate Ugandan innovators in the application space. The awards saw the founders of e-Commerce platform, Qwicart, walk away with two awards. The same number that Evelyn Namara, combined with her venture's first product M-Voucher won.
The awards that had 9 categories shortlisted 45 nominees. Of which, the winner in each category walked away with $3,000. The categories were Health, Education, financial services, SME, Agriculture, Media and Entertainment, most innovative, Outstanding woman innovation and innovation achiever of the year.
The first award went to myChild App for the best education app. The best financial services app went to Mambopay, having been among the nominees in 2015 and failing to win. The best SME app was Qwicart, which was launched by Joshua Mugisha - the former BrighterMonday Uganda Country Manager. The app also won the most innovative app award.
The best health app was PRISMS, best agriculture was M-Voucher by !nnovate, and best media and entertainment went to AppAbout.
The innovative achiever was won by Gonahasa David, the founder of RoundBob and lastly, Evelyn Namara won the outstanding woman innovation award. (See also: Does MTN Organize Innovation Awards and Competitions to Steal Ideas?)
TMS Ruge gave the opening speech which resonated well with the innovators. The keynote was given by Fred Otunnu, the director of communications at Uganda Communications Commission, on behalf of the ICT minister, Frank Tumwebaze. (See also: Minister Frank Tumwebaze breaks ground for the construction of government ICT Hub in Nakawa)
In his speech, he re-emphasized the importance of innovation to solve the problems in the country. He also highlighted the fact that the awards had categories covering the key issues affecting the country like health, education etc.
Yet, a few people still felt the awards should not only focus on apps but solutions in general. This was based on the fact that some judges were asking for apps from solutions that didn't necessarily need applications.
One particular scenario is that of The Innovation Village and Up Accelerate where one of the judges was asking them for their apps. It is not that all solutions need apps.
Another improvement that needs to be made is raising the bar of nomination. Some solutions that were nominated were not convincing enough. This will keep people who feel their solutions are above the bar from participating.
Lastly, it is hard to have someone who has never been an innovator to judge an innovation. There's a huge difference between reading about how to get your hands dirty and actually getting them dirty. Judges should at least be innovators themselves. That way, they'll appreciate the process and probably have better criteria to judge.
Yet, being just the second year, the awards still have room for improvement as well as help elevate more innovations from Uganda.