One of the most innovative and exciting events in the history of Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT) is definitely the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Nyeri hackathon. A hackathon is a weekend sprint development event where developers, technologists, entrepreneurs and other innovators work together to address specific challenges. This wide pool of talent is harnessed in exploiting the power of synergy to make working models and applications that will improve humanity and alleviate suffering.

Planning and Awareness
Planning started at the start of the year following a successful RHoK community hackathon on 22nd to 23rd of December 2012 at DeKUT. This been the second hackathon in the region, thus the demand and expectations from the interested parties were high. As a result, this posed a challenge to the organizing team in terms of sponsorship. Nevertheless, nothing could be left to chance as we had to have the RHoK Nyeri Global hackathon come June 1st to 2nd.

With support from our sponsors, the DeKUT, RHoK, and Computer Society of Kimathi (CSoK), the event was set to kick-off successfully. With that in mind, the awareness team conducted both online and offline campaigns. Online campaigns were conducted through social media and the event page. Moreover, this allowed interested individuals to acquire free tickets online via The event also received international interests; notably, Patrick Choquette, the innovations director from Peace Corps in Washington DC, USA and largely Thea Aldrich the RHoK core global team leader. Having this in mind, arguably the event was set to be the biggest tech hackathon in the region considering that RHoK Nyeri represented Kenya in the hack weekend among other 10 major cities in the world.  

Registration and Schedule Announcements
Participants started trickling in as early as 7.30am on Saturday, of which by 10.30am most of them had confirmed their presence. Regardless of the slow start, some participants had travelled from far to arrive at the event and couldn’t let their spirits dampen. With such an excitement and enthusiasm the CSoK’s club president and RHoK Lead Organizer, Antony Oroko, opened the event with a warm welcome followed by schedule and logistics briefings before we had a welcome note on behalf of Mr. Ndungu, Dean School of Computer Science and Information Technology (CS&IT).

Most of the participants were students from DeKUT; however, we also had some from JKUAT, Kenyatta University, Pinnacle College – Nyeri, and Peace Corps volunteer (a US government organization, This mix of culture, experiences, fields of study and skills was just the right environment set for the event.

Subject Matter Experts Briefings and Brainstorming
With most of the participants comfortable with each other, from a series of introduction and identification, close to 60 participants were all excited to meet new people and establish long-term networks. At around 11.30am, they were ready to present their solutions as per the theme of the hackathon, “Hack for Humanity”. We had a series of presentations where they convincingly presented their innovative and workable solutions to the rest of the participants. This resulted to the crafting of eight (8) innovative ideas. Thereafter, participants were given a chance to decide on which solutions they were willing to work on for the less than 48hrs to come. In the meantime, we had the privilege of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (AA), Prof. Muthakia, gracing the occasion with some inspirational words that challenged the participants to explore their imagination beyond normal. In addition, a short life’s journey on his academic achievements placed a beam of hope triggering the participants to achieve their best. By past noon, the participants had decided and divided themselves among the working 8 groups with a minimum of 6 people, the project manager being the lead.

Lunch break was characterized by some nice meals courtesy of our main sponsor, this kept the hackers in-check with their ideas as they thoroughly discussed them over their meals.

The coding session began in which groups worked on their solutions by combining their skills, experience and team work. To ensure that each member was performing to his optimum level, we had breaks for snacks and energy drinks and before the evening meals we involved the participants in a trivia which challenged the hackers logically.

Overnight coding was awesome, with groups determined to keep the midnight oil burning as we ensured they never ran dry as coffee was flowing in the room. However, those who couldn’t make it had to catch on some sleep in their working stations – what a team spirit!

During the entire period we had a series of progress report checks by the project managers. This made sure that the challenges faced by each group were addressed earlier.  Commonly, lack of development skills was evident. Therefore, we proposed a skill-trade by the teams, that is, teams could exchange skills for other skills in specified time period. For example, a trade-in between an android developer and a design creative. This synergy allowed the participants to learn more from each other.

Presentations and Judging
By around noon on Sunday, most groups were winding-up on their projects and preparing their presentations. Antony managed to give some tips on how they should make their presentations. Of interest, also were the Skype calls from interested parties like Patrick Choquette from Peace Corps. Mentors also had a chance to discuss with each group on their project.

At 2 PM after lunch, the Judging session kicked off. Teams were anxious to do their presentations; contrastingly, they were so much interested to show what they have been working on over the weekend. Six (6) teams managed to do their presentations: iPark, Mkulima Digital, Okoa Life, Lipwa Poa, Ticko and Car Parking Locator.

The team of Judges was experienced and included:
1.    Bahati Schyns – previous RHoK Nairobi organizer and currently RHoK Africa organizer. Also works with the Kenya Red Cross Society.
2.    Jane Kuria – Chair of Information Technology     Department, School of CS&IT, DeKUT. Also a lecturer at the same university.
3.    Luke Otieno – a graduate Engineer student at JKUAT. Also an assistant lecturer at DeKUT.
4.    Calvin Kebati – lead organizer of the JKUAT Tech Expo, head of innovations programme at JKUAT. Also a graduate student at the same university.

Projects Presented

iPark (Winner of RHoK Nyeri June 2013)
Parking in Nairobi takes average of 38 minutes to locate in a busy day. On locating it, one has to look for an attendant and often gets the car clumped for failure of timely payment. Often, visitors in Nairobi City County are victimized for this and it is vital to ensure efficient paying and efficient parking allocation. Corruption is rampant and out of 70,000 cars parked daily in Nairobi, the authorities collect only half of the expected income.

The software / hardware project uses RFID sensors and Google maps to spot available parking lots in real time. Furthermore, the software allocates parking space in real time and allows payment via mobile money, credit card or monthly billing via the banks. This automated billing removes the need for ticket sales and saves the country from corruption and inflated salary budgets. Parkers will be able to pay for space in advance and book physical locations via phone. The council (Nairobi) will be able to double revenue from the current KShs.200 million per month to over 400m. The model will be replicated to all major towns in Kenya including Nyeri Town, by 2015 if given the support required.

The project is partly android based so there was a lot of JAVA involved. Java was also used to model the SMS payment model on a MySQL back-end. Parts of the project will definitely involve C programming, Python, and a Microchip.

Money Model
(For sustainability of open source software and commercialization of all the others)
The project will be able to give efficient payment models to Kenyans and Africans and also double the collected income. For this course, the monetary value of the fully fledged version of the project is more than KShs.100 million. The project is available for funding.
Project Manager: Denis Otieno  

Lipwa Poa (1st Runners-up)
Middlemen! Yes, middlemen are a big problem in the society; especially agricultural middlemen. Kenya has many problems but some of the most rigid are food security and high cost of living. These two are a partly man-made. With the elimination of middlemen in the farming produce food chain, farmers will be able to interact directly with buyers and thus get better prices. Farming will become a lucrative venture and thus encourage more players thus boost food security in the nation. Buyers will on the other hand have access to cheaper prices of consumer goods such as maize which will drive down the man-made high cost of living. 

The participants in this group came up with a working public database of all genuine suppliers of all commodities in the 47 county headquarters in Kenya. This system will accept and validate new data via SMS and disburse it still via SMS. For example a selling farmer in Kitui with 100 kg of maize available will text 100kg#kitui#maize#20 to a given number to indicate that he has 100 kg of maize to sell at 20 per kg and he is based in Kitui town. On the other hand a hotel owner or miller will be able to query the system with maize#kitui#2000kg to get a list of all available sellers and the available quantities. This system will completely eliminate the broker from the supply chain model and make living easier in Kenya, (at least in 47 towns!)

The participants used USSD, J2ME and MySQL.

Money Model
(For sustainability of open source software and commercialization of all the others)
The project is supposed to help the community but since it involves money, a charge of KSh.5 per SMS to query the system has been put forward. A charge of KSh.1 to display commodities has also been decided. In a move to eliminate spamming, data integrity is supported using elaborate processing algorithms and statistical applications employed to get the means, variances and standard deviations of prices of close to 250 agricultural consumer products in 47 major towns. The project is partially available for funding. It has the potential to be implemented commercially and sold to one of the major players in the industry (MFARM).
Project Manager: Jane Duncan

Okoa Life System (2nd Runners-up)
Disasters and catastrophes are common in Kenya. However, Kenya is one of the most unprepared nations in terms of disaster mitigation and management. For this reason, the app was developed. It will be able to relay useful disaster alerts for disaster prone locations in real time. This will help in mitigating deaths and injury due to natural causes such as earthquakes, tsunami, rain, floods and storms.

A mobile SMS system based on Java, PHP, MySQL and Ozeki SMS gateway will be developed and used to come up with the SMS system. The disaster alerts will be collected via crowd sourcing and also from relevant authorities such as Meteorological departments. This data will be broadcasted to all people in a geographical locality.

Java, Ozeki SMS gateway, PHP, JavaScript, MySQL.

Money Model
(For sustainability of open source software and commercialization of all the others)
The project is community based and thus cannot charge anything to recipients of the SMS. This will mean that all funding will be from willing donors.
Project Manager: Harrison Kimemia

Car Parking Lot Allocator
In congested Kenyan cities, it is a nightmare to look for parking space. For this reason, this program was developed by one other winning group to address the problem. It comes with an integrated website that shares a database with a standalone computer program. The system targets people with smart phones, handheld devices such as iPads and tablets, & and laptop computers. In truth, many people who can afford to drive cars in congested cities and pay for parking can afford such devices so it is not a big problem. Currently, the situation in cities like Nairobi and Mombasa are deplorably disappointing and this app will aid the nation in inching closer to vision 2030.

The solution is a fully integrated website that is used to share information and also collect and gather reliable data about traffic from satellite officials and moving volunteers. A mobile application for android devices comes in handy for the drivers and transport managers seeking to pay for company parking.
The server used is apache tomcat, with web framework in HTML5. PHP is largely used to define models and database features. For enhancement of the interface, the group used JQUERY Mobile for mobile and JavaScript for the website. Google maps API was largely used for geo-positioning of parking lots.

Money Model
(For sustainability of open source software and commercialization of all the others)
The app will collect revenue for the city councils and charge a substantially good but sensible amount of money. Considering the reduction of corruption avenues and elimination of printing, banking, employee and other old system overheads, the inventors will be able to make a tidy sum at the onset of the project. Funding opportunities are open.

Mkulima Digital
Farming is no longer a past time as it used to be. This time round, it is a business. The problem is few insurance companies cover loss due to drought or harsh weather conditions. This app will use meteorological databases to come up with predictable profitable ventures at different time epochs for agricultural localities in Kenya. The app will operate at constituency level but can be fine-tuned to village level with enough funding. Due to low income from miscalculated investment in farming, farmers suffer loss, affecting food security in the nation.

The app will gather relevant data updated weekly and statistically extrapolate possibilities for the region for the following few months. With this and the help of agricultural extension officers, the farmers using the app will be able to get the most appropriate and profitable crop to grow for a certain season, thus improving their yields and food security in the nation as a whole.

The app was based on mobile SMS technology, thus uses the Ozeki SMS gateway interface.  Other supporting technologies are PHP, SQL, and MySQL sprint.
Money Model
(For sustainability of open source software and commercialization of all the others)
The SMS service will charge premium rates for the advice and thus the project will be self-sustaining. This amount once at optimum operation will be able to pay for hosting and for continuous development of the system. Funding for this project is open.

Ticket App
Kimathi students ticketing system is a big let-down to efficiency in the running of the school and specifically student affairs. For example, the current tickets used are messy and inconveniencing to both use and buy. On multiple times, the finance office is slow in printing tickets or selling them to students living off campus. For this reason, a ticket app was developed to make e-ticketing possible and efficient via M-PESA or to be billed directly to the student fee.

This app will allow students to be given distinct identity cards printed with a unique QR code for every student. These cards will go for about KShs.5 per card.  The QR code will be used to access an e-ticket repository and deduct a ticket each time the student uses a bus. The student will need this card to use the service but the QR code can also be integrated in the current student ID card. The bus conductors will be issued with QR detectors or small mobile phones retailing for around 5000 each. This is all that will be needed to allow virtual payment of bus services. The advantage is that the school will track student movements and get accurate data on student migrations as a function of time.

PHP, QR generator, Android, and MySQL. 
Money Model
(For sustainability of open source software and commercialization of all the others)

The project is open source and repositories will be made available for all universities in Kenya. The hackers will sell the idea to the management of the school to enable full implementation in the next few months. The school will be responsible for future maintenance of the systems.

Closing the hackathon at around 5.30PM on Sunday, hackers and RHoKstars were encouraged to pursue their application to fulfillment so as to save humanity and alleviate suffering.
Congratulations to the winning hackers and all participants who donated their time and expertise to develop these amazing applications in less than 48hrs.

1.    Internet Connectivity: This was a big disappointment as internet connectivity proved to be limited and came in late. We would kindly request our sponsors, the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, to provide and improve internet connectivity during the event. This is because most work and content is shared online and the teams have to collaborate with others all over the world.
2.    Funding: Once again, this was a major challenge as the event couldn’t kick-off without the funding it needed. It is our humble request to smoothen the process of approving funding for such kind of an event so as to assist greatly in preparations.
3.    Incubation: The essence of this event is to challenge participants to come with innovative solutions to improve humanity and alleviate suffering. With that in mind, the ideas which are born out of the event should be incubated till they can successfully go into the market so as to bring the significance and attain the objective of the hackathon. Currently, the winning apps are looking for space to work on their ideas to fulfillment. We as the Computer Society of Kimathi have taken the onus to look for the space and resources they need. On the same note, we would be interested to start discussions to see how we can start an innovations and incubation center at the University. We are so excited and determined to see the projects put to use on the ground.

1.    Innovative Culture – Having such an innovative weekend involving most of the University students is a wise opportunity to trigger students to be creative and innovative. Moreover, it induces the spirit of team work, collaboration, and working under limited resources. This sets the University to its aligned objectives as a university of technology. Additionally, this is one way to push the nation to achieve its set Vision 2030 goals. Congratulations to the University management for realizing this.
2.    Positive Publicity – Random Hacks of Kindness is a global event that involves more than 50 major cities in the world ( Their impact has been felt over the years and such innovative products from the hackathons have been implemented in Haiti and Chile following the earthquakes there in early 2010. They have also been implemented to assess landslide risk in the Caribbean and crowd source bushfire information in Australia. Kenyan Red Cross has greatly benefited from such hack weekends as most applications have been picked by them.

Of much notice, this has linked Nyeri Town with big cities such as London, Bangalore, Trento, Melbourne, Philadelphia, Nairobi, Jo’Burg and many others.

This can be attested by the participations of American Citizen, Jane Duncan, a Peace Corps volunteer who leaves in Makueni on a two-year mission (

Vote of Thanks
Firstly, we would love to thank the participants for the presence and valuable time over the weekend to develop such innovative solutions. Much appreciation and support goes to the following for making this event a success:
1.    The Dedan Kimathi University of Technology administration for their continued support to this event.
2.    The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. P. N. Kioni, for the belief in such an event from the first day.
3.    The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Muthakia, for the support and motivation through the event. We greatly humbled and value your presence at the event.
4.    The Deputy Registrar (AF), Mr. Muriuki, who was so much involved in the organization of the event.
5.    Mr. Ndungu, Dean School of Computer Science and Information Technology, for the continued support and motivation at low moments. We greatly value your involvement and concern.
6.    Mr. Patrick Githu, Computer Science Lecturer, for the valuable support to see the event is a success.
7.    Mr. Cyrus Kamau, the Computer Society of Kimathi club Patron, for giving us the go-ahead to have this event and supporting us in all ways.
8.    The Senior Security Officer and the Catering Manager.
9.    The Judges who spent their valuable time deciding on the best solution.
10.    The RHoK organizing team lead by Antony Oroko

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