The Future Africa Awards 2014: Nominees interview series – Joshua Okello (TFAA Prize in Technology)

by Kolapo Olapoju

 

Joshua Okello is the Co-Founder & Biz Development Lead of Cipher256, the makers of WinSenga, a software and hardware app primarily deployed on a Windows Phone that enhances and extends the functionality of a Pinnard horn (primary tool used by midwives for foetal heart rate monitoring) to deliver timely, effective, quality and affordable antenatal diagnosis and care.

According to Joshua, WinSega was created as a result of high mortality rates, and to prevent and manage complications and risk factors during pregnancy and during childbirth. He said, “At the time, statistics showed that a mother died every minute from such complications and that about 99% of these deaths were recorded in developing countries, particularly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Despite the business still in its early stages, Joshua attributes passion to its success. “Passion both for what I do and but also for the problem (why I do it). Then of course, persistence and mentorship (there are a lot of people who believe in what we are doing and have been with us through thick and thin, and continue to do so). But perhaps more important than all these is an equally passionate team. The best wins are those where you win as a team and am forever in their debt.”

In the area of funding, the company has found it hard to cope, as only one major company has injected funds into the application. “We’ve only gotten funding from Microsoft by way of a $50,000 grant. And that was 2 years ago. Unfortunately, no one else has given us any other financial support. We need this to push the final frontier and put this in the hands of more mothers and health centres that need it.”

Despite being nominated for ‘The Future Africa Awards 2014, Prize in technology category’ , Joshua says his team deserves most of the recognition for the success of the app.

He said, “It is quaint. That’s what I can think of it. You see, I’d not heard of the awards till I was nominated. That said, my team and I feel honoured, and at the same time, humbled and reminded of just how much more we need to do to turn a new chapter for Africa. I mention my team because most times the team behind the Messis of this world are forgotten and yet they make the Messis who they are. I am NOTHING without this team.”

Okello is optimistic that the exposure associated with the awards will inadvertently attract funding for the business. He added, “Such an award is a stamp of approval by some of the best in Africa! It will enhance our brand. With this, we hope the boardrooms we walk in after to perhaps seek for funding will be more receptive and willing.”

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