26 January 2013

Uganda: Makerere to Make Mobile Phones

AFTER successfully launching its electric vehicle (Kiira EV) last year, Makerere University has again embarked on another ground-breaking research to develop a mobile phone, the first to be made locally.

The smart phone, to be known as the Pearl, is one of over a dozen technological innovations currently on-going at the university's college of technology and funded by the Government to the tune of sh154b.

Cosmas Mwikirize, the project's assistant principal investigator, said unlike most smart phones on the market today, the Pearl will be of high-tech with intelligent features like GPS tracking, data analysis and biometric security.

Other features will include a 'mobile weather station', which will integrate temperature and humidity sensors to monitor and reveal different weather patterns at any given location.

"We completed the design late last year. The prototype will be out in June," Mwikirize told New Vision Online.

The university intends to start mass production of smart mobile phones after the prototype.

"Uganda, like most of the other African nations, has always been a consuming country for foreign technologies. We want to prove that these things can also be done here," Mwikirize said.

Besides Mwikirize, there are six undergraduate students of electrical and computer engineering working on the smart phone.

He identified them as Simon Lubambo, Epirus Kuhimbisa, Peter Mugenyi, Patience Bataringaya, Paul Buchana, and Agatha Turyagyenda.

Earlier during the graduation ceremony, the vice-chancellor, Prof. Ddumba Ssentamu, said the college of technology had received over sh1b additional grants from different development partners in the past year.

The funding, he explained, would enable the college to complete the development of the smart phone and other projects like the Kayoola electric solar bus for city transport.

Before the vehicles, the college first developed online laboratories (i-labs) in 2009, which attracted President Yoweri Museveni's support to increase funding for technological innovations at the university.

With i-labs, lecturers and students can conduct scientific research online, which reduces expenses on physical equipment.

Ddumba asked the Government to increase funding to the university to avert problems like low staff morale and high turn-over due to poor pay, non-functional laboratories, overcrowded lecture rooms and to clear the pension arrears of sh12b.

A total of 2,870 students graduated yesterday out of the 12,455 who are to graduate during this year's four-day graduation ceremony. Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo graduated with a Bachelor of Laws.

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