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Have a taste of Uganda's unique ICT innovations

Tuesday, 23rd May 2017

By Isaac Kalembe

May 24, 2017 marks the beginning of the 7th edition of ACIA - the Annual Communication Innovation Awards - when Ugandans will be treated to a cocktail of ICT innovations.

ACIA is perhaps the most prestigious information and communications technology awards in Uganda. A brainchild of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), ACIA aims to foster greater local involvement in the development and provision of innovative products, services and content in Uganda.

ACIA has been held almost annually to reward outstanding ICT innovations since their inception in October 2010. The event usually coincides with the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day (WTISD – May 17), which is the reason why it's held in May.

As is indicated in the figure below, ACIA has become a signature tune in Uganda's ICT landscape and communications sector in general.

ACIA 2017

Increasingly, Ugandans, especially the young and youthful brains, keenly look towards participating in this premier event. Winners have benefited from a pool of prizes that have enabled them acquire the resources, linkages and capacity to enhance their innovations.

Focus
This year's event takes place at the Serena Kampala Hotel from May 24-26, 2017. The thrust of the ACIA 2017 challenges is ICT innovation and entrepreneurship. It focused on facilitating Ugandan youth to develop a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship by leveraging ICT.
In doing so, UCC hopes that innovations and ideas can be refined and positioned better to access support in terms of funding, and address the issues of scalability and sustainability that are critical to propelling these innovations further.
ACIA 2017 was launched in November 2016 with a call for entries in various categories. The call for entries, which closed on April 15, 2017, attracted 174 submissions.

Awards
There are eight (8) award categories in ACIA 2017, including the young ICT innovators for primary, secondary and tertiary students popularly known as the Uganda'sICT explorers and rising stars. This category included competitions that were held on a regional basis.

ACIA 2017 events
ACIA 2017 comprises a number of unique events, including a two-day Hackathon on Smart Transport Management to be held at Turacco Hall, Serena Hotel, Kampala, from May 24-25.

The Hackathon will be preceded by two-day Innovation Clinics to be held at Serena Conference Gardens fromMay 25-26. The clinics, whose theme is: "Innovation and Entrepreneurship", will focus on intellectual property rights, legal services, industry solutions, prototyping and modelling, social aspects of innovation, entrepreneurship, and acceleration and project validation.

At least 400 participants are expected to attend these clinics. Attendance of the clinics is by registration via the website: http://acia.ug (registration is closed).

The clinic will coincide with a two-day ICT Exhibition, also under the theme: "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" and held at the same venue (Serena Conference Gardens)fromMay 25-26. The Exhibition, open to the general public, offers a platform and exposure to participants to showcase their innovations to diverse audiences. Just to give a peep into this two-event: there are exciting innovations on display by our local innovators.

Of course, the Awards gala will be the climax whereby winners and runners-up will be recognised for their outstanding innovations. The regional winners participated in the national competitions where they pitched their ideas and present their models or prototypes before a panel of independent judges on May 20, 2017.

For the other standard award categories - Digital Content, ICT for Development (ICT4D), Service Excellence, 2017 ICT Innovation Start-Up, and Business Excellence – a panel of imminent judges determined the nominees from the shortlisted entries. Thereafter, the nominees were invited to pitch their products, models, and prototypes.
Finally, a panel of eight (8) judges, basing on specific criteria, determined the finalists whose efforts are going to be rewarded during the Awards Gala on Friday, May 26, 2017. At least 500 invited guests will bear witness to the awards.

There are a number of prizes including certificates, trophies, cash prizes, and post-ACIA support including incubation of their ideas and seed funding for certain categories to further development of their innovations.

(Isaac Kalembe is the Senior Public Relations Officer at the Uganda Communications Commission)