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Mak students showcase fuel app in Barcelona


East African motorists may soon have the opportunity to identify fuel stations with cheaper prices before they embark on a journey.

That is thanks to the research work of a team of five students from Makerere University’s College of Computing and Information Sciences, who had the rare opportunity to pitch live on stage before an international audience a mobile application they named MafutaGo. The application earned them the Ring Master award, an award for the first runners-up position at the annual Premier Mobile awards held at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The team first pitched their idea last September at an annual showcase of innovative mobile application ideas in Uganda sponsored by a Spanish firm, App Circus, before it was nominated to represent Uganda at the global awards.

“Later, we received communication that we had been nominated to the annual showcase in Barcelona, Spain,” Christine Ampaire, the team’s manager, says.

Other members of the team include Wasaka Jjingo Kisakye, a computer engineering student; Gerald Odur Anickton, and Remo Samuel Paul both software engineering students; and James Muranga, an electrical engineering student. The annual competition had competitors from 20 countries. The teams demonstrated the gradual steps of developing an application from building the prototype to an actual working application before a panel of 10 judges.

Ampaire, who represented the team on stage, recalls the moment as thrilling: “I was nervous, you had to explain the business model, how to gather market data, how it will help users and demonstrating its working to the audience in just three minutes and before great brains and other mobile application builders,” she recalls.

The Ugandan team was first runners-up out of the 20 applications nominated from 46 countries for the Premier Mobile Awards.

“It was a serious learning experience and we now have the leverage to market it to different stakes than was the case before,” Ampaire, a second-year student of software engineering, says.

The MafutaGo application enables mobile phone users with an internet browser to identify fuel stations with the cheapest fuel and gas prices and other services such as washing bay and food courts.  It can also be accessed on Facebook as “MafutaGo”. It uses an android platform although there are plans to create more platforms for access.

It gives fuel stations an identity in form of their own name such as Shell Bugolobi and offers motorist directions to the station of their choice. For mobile phones with GPS (locater), the application enables a driver to locate the different petrol stations in their direction.  At the moment, the team relies on convincing station managers to offer information on prices and the crowd sourcing approach where motorists submit prices from the respective stations where they are offered different services.

“We encourage oil companies to help us in updating their prices,” Ampaire, the only female mobile web developer in the team, says.

akyobe@observer.ug

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