In spite of the hurtful Internet blackout in Buea, Larry Akah, a Silicon Mountain-based Software Engineer is shortlisted for Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation for 2016/2017. Akah and his team are competing with their award-winning app called Traveler
Akah Harvey Larry, 24 is a young enthusiastic tech prodigy and engineer from Buea, nicknamed – Silicon Mountain, Cameroon’s fastest growing Tech innovation ecosystem.
Before the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, Larry 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 many others.
The Traveler app tries to mimic 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.
“Imagine being notified even one minute before that there could be danger ahead while driving, sounds cool right, almost like you could peek into the future and anticipate moves, haha.”
Akah said, when Afro Hustler asked him on why he decided to work on this app.
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is setup by the Royal Academy of Engineering London, to compensate African innovators solving Africa’s pressing issues via engineering skills. It seeks to grow engineering talent in Africa so they can impact their own society in positive ways.
When asked about the challenges they face today with Traveler, Akah had this to say.
“The entire infrastructure now setup as a startup is built by 3 co-founders (Tueno, Achiri and I ) who worked tirelessly from a previous version that I identified had no chances of making it far enough. The deployment of our app came in 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 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.
Even though being a new field of exploration in our society, the app faces regulation and needs some degree of government intervention to certify our practice on the highways. This is often very slow and so hinders our quick progress and expansion.”
Akah also said these when we asked him about what could prevent him from bringing the award to the Silicon Mountain.
“We might be great at engineering, but we have had a hard time finding a business model for our product. We still do not have any reliable model, but we are looking into it. What we see is that we are building a technology for social impact, but the big boys in the industry are telling us to think differently. They say we should think again and again until our idea is commercializable.
We have also had difficulties closing business deals. Our jeans are are not as polished as suits, and our hair are black, not grey. We believe that with a grey-haired business development person, we should be able to win some regulations and other revenue battles.
When we get an experienced grey-haired person to bring his/ her business and government connections to our engineering prowess, we might just be building Africa’s next technology giant”
Let’s wish Larry and Traveler team luck as the face the next phase of the competition in Kenya.