While technical subjects and careers are normally perceived to be a male dominated sector, girl students from The National University of Science Technology NUST, have gone against the odds by not only taking the challenging programming degree programmes , but in fact are already creating software solutions to the nation.
Inspired and mentored by Mrs Novuyo Bobo, who is the ICT user support and training manager for the university, five girls from the institution are raring to go as they near their first real world implementation of one of the software products for the medical sector.
Samantha Gama, Gugulethu Ngewnya, Novuyo Tsambani, Maureen Mpofu and Petronella Muzondo have come out with a cloud based application C_Casualty that will enable both patients and doctors to remotely access medical files without any need to start pre-investigation should a patient changes a doctor.
The girls have created an internet based solutions that works and is stored in the cloud (online) while conveniently giving access to relevant practitioners in real time doing away with the paper file system which has greatly affected efficiency in most medical institutions as they still heavily depend on the hard copy file system.
To up their game, the institution is already lobbying Mpilo Hospital, the biggest government owned hospital in the province to prototype the solution giving it a real world experience before officially applying to various institution.
Speaking to the students mentor, Mrs Novoyu Bobo, she said that the beauty of the programme is that its already offering a solution to wide known problem that we already have in Zimbabwe and hopefully, the institutions will take this remedy as a lasting solution.
“We take pride in the solutions these girls have created, one of them is the C_casuality a cloud based platform that will seamlessly avail patients database and make updating and background checks a reality from anywhere in the world”
The major problem however has been the general bureaucratic resistance to technological solutions from the decision makers who generally are not from the technological era as they are sceptical about technology and the new solutions they do not necessarily understand.
Speaking to the girls behind the technology, they said they find coding or programming equally exciting and achievable although most people perceive it as one of the most challenging course in Information Communication Technology.
They have managed to learn various programming languages and platforms as they undertake their various degree programmes in technology to enable them to design standard web based software and mobile apps.
Their challenge however is to adapt and create these solutions for various platforms to be universally applicable as it takes extra resources and different learning skills to be able release such solutions for various operating systems and platforms.
“Today, android, a Google based operating system has become the most popular platform to develop applications on and this is the only mobile platform we then finally have exposure to and hence we limit our market” said Samantha Gama.
Gugulethu Gwenya bemoaned the bureaucratic process of availing a solution to the public sector as this at times wears out their energy and diverts their focus from their primary focus which should be developing the product not necessarily marketing it as they are not well equipped for that whole process.
Novuyo Tsambani said that the major problem was however in deployment of the software where the issue of ownership keeps coming up from all the involved parties. ”They want to know who owns the data and software once we enter into an agreement of running it which presents a complexity as no one can exclusively own them“ she said.
An interesting challenge posed by one of the girls, Mrs Maureen Mpofu was the issue of security of the application and fear of data breach as medical practitioners take data privacy and patient records privacy seriously.
The girls are however steadfast against the normal industry challenges which they are optimistic they will overcome as they are already getting help with strategic partners to penetrate the market with new solutions.
Like any other startup, Issues of funding and market penetration have always been identified as major stumbling blocks delaying the implementation of the many technological solutions our up and coming innovators have.
Besides the C_Casualty solution, these girls have developed many other applications that are ready to be deployed into the market and are only waiting Intellectual property rights, and registration before going mainstream. Issues of IP rights have become fundamental in Zimbabwe as inventors seek ways to protect their innovations.
The Girls in ICT have been actively involved in various technological challenges for woman including the popular TechnoVation challenge where their software solution was the second best in Zimbabwe, slightly trailing behind the University of Zimbabwe and there were given an Arduino board as an award.