20 May 2021, JUBA—A new mobile application, AlertMe, was crowned the winning concept of UNDP’s Youth Innovation Challenge for Peace, as part of a call to inspire young South Sudanese to develop a technology solution to strengthen grassroots reporting into the South Sudan Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit.
“This is a proud day of my life, participating in and winning the Innovation Challenge for Peace. I thank UNDP South Sudan, the Government of Sweden and Korea for this investment in the talent of South Sudan,” said Geoffrey Wani, developer and winner of the first place application, AlertMe. Mr. Wani extended his appreciation to fellow finalists and extended an offer to work together to continue to improve the application’s useability.
Chaired by the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission (SSPRC), the Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit was launched in 2012 to detect, prevent and respond to crises and conflicts in a timely and coordinated manner. UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project is supporting SSPRC to operationalize its Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit, which is responsible for receiving early warning alerts, directing alerts to early responders, compiling data, and monitoring trends of conflict in the country, in line with IGAD’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Network (CEWERN).
The Government of Sweden and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) provided support to the Youth Innovation Challenge for Peace.
“If young people can deliver the technology solutions we are gathered to celebrate here today, South Sudan is not far behind others and we can look inwards for the solutions we need. To the finalists gathered here today, I say congratulations but not to relax. There are other problems that need your innovative thinking, so please continue to harness the energy that brought you to this ceremony today,” said Hon. Chuol Rambang, Chairperson of the SSPRC during the awards ceremony held in Juba on 20 May.
Launched in October 2020 by UNDP and SSPRC, the Youth Innovation Challenge for Peace put forth a call for techonology applicationsolution concepts. 50 youth entered the competition as individuals or teams. From the 26 concepts submitted, five ideas were selected for further development, ideation, and incubation by UNDP’s Accelerator Lab.
“This [competition] is recognition of what young South Sudanese can do, if given opportunity. I want to congratulate you all for the commitment to a job well done. With the support you will receive today, be among those young people in the region who are thinking about local solutions to local problems, not only in communication technology, but in agriculture, mining, and other things. Look beyond today, this should be only the beginning,” said Undersecretary of the Ministry of Peacebuilding Hon. Pia Phillip, who also thanked Sweden and Korea for their support to young people.
To ensure the apps responded to the needs of end users, teams participated in exchanges and consultations with the SSPRC and learned about the role of peace committees in their communities. A final technical presentation and evaluation workshop featured three judges: Eva Yayi, Co-Founder of GoGirls ICT Initiative; Grace Apadang, tech entrepreneur and founder of Nilotechnologies Co. Ltd.; and Andreas Hirblinger, researcher at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.
“We looked at how original the idea was, how realistically it could be implemented in South Sudan, and the completeness of the product. Sustainability and inclusivity were also important aspects – how will the app continue to function regardless of external support? And will the app serve the needs of all people who might use it? The three final concepts were very interesting and we realized they were all responsive to the users,” said Ms. Yayi, during remarks representing the judging panel at the awards ceremony.
The three finalists each will receive prize awards to implement the applications. The first place winner of the competition will receive US$10,000 to further the development of the AlertMe app to scale for conflict early warning and response. The first and second runners up won $5,000 and $3,000, respectively, to further their concepts and explore integration into the final product or for commercial viability.
“UNDP believes that there can be no development without peace, neither can we have lasting peace without development. Youth are not just the future of South Sudan but the present. This innovation competition demonstrates the potential of youth in South Sudan to contribute to peacebuilding and development. I wish the winners the best, as they continue to produce innovative technological solutions,” said UNDP Resident Representative Samuel Doe.
Peace committee members from Central Equatoria were on hand at the ceremony for a live demonstration of the AlertMe application, and to provide feedback to the developer. They were joined by civil society, youth and women groups, and fellow innovators, to discuss and exchange ideas on next steps in the development process.
Full recording of the award ceremony can be found on UNDP South Sudan’s Facebook page.