Usalama Technologies, a mobile based platform that links its users to emergency service providers while providing access to real time data on an online response center aims to end the slow cumbersome and ineffective emergencies services in the country using technology.
The team believes that traditional emergency service providers are poorly linked to the people in distress which leads to slow responses, worsened injuries and some cases death.
TechMoran caught up with the team and here is what inspired them to start Usalama and what has kept them going.
Briefly tell us about yourselves?
I am Edwards Iganji, 24, an Informatics and Computer Science graduate from Strathmore University. I co-founded Usalama Technologies with James Chege, 23, Informatics and Computer Science Graduate from Strathmore University and Marvin Makau, 24,Informatics also a Computer Science Graduate from Strathmore University
In 2012, I was a freshman in college and one evening while going home I was suddenly surrounded by four men at gun point. I sadly realized that there was no way I could call for help. So one of them punched me in the gut and as I was writhing in pain they ransacked me. The ordeal lasted for 5 minutes but afterwards, I saw a problem. I shared with my classmates James and Marvin and we began thinking of the problem and its solution. The current methods of accessing emergencies are slow cumbersome and ineffective on the other hand the emergency service providers are poorly linked to the people in distress which leads to slow responses, worsened injuries and some cases death.
What is Usalama to a layman?
Usalama is a mobile based platform that links its users to emergency service providers while providing access to real time data on an online response center.
The platform has three interlinked components: an end user mobile app linked to the online response center for emergency providers which is in turn linked to the agent app for their field agents on the ground.
At a glance the platform has two main sides; the end user on one and the emergency service providers on the other. It works in four steps:
- When in distress, simply shake your phone to open the app or long press volume down to trigger a distress. This distress notification contains the user’s exact GPS coordinates, their name, phone number and other bio data(gender, blood group, allergenes, preferred hospital e.t.c)
- The distress is sent to your next of kin and to the online response center of the emergency provider.
- The service provider receives the distress, opens it and prompts the platform to automatically pick out the nearest agent from the person in distress and forward it to their agent app.
The agent receives the distress, opens it and is dispatched to respond.
Our focus as of now is on four types of emergencies: medical emergencies, security emergencies, roadside rescue and gender-based violence. In each of these areas we seek emergency service providers that offer services in the respective sector and sign them up for our platform. We generate revenue by charging the private(for-profit) emergency providers monthly fee for using our platform based on the size their users.
What market gaps are you filling?
We are addressing poor access to emergency services. In Kenya and many other African and Third world countries, there is a general lack of integrated emergency services that the public can easily access to receive timely emergency care. There is also poor coordination of major incident management activities.
A lack of a national incident command system and a lack of national standard emergency operational procedures often leads to uncoordinated efforts.
The current methods of accessing emergencies are slow cumbersome and ineffective on the other hand the emergency service providers are poorly linked to the people in distress which leads to slow responses, worsened injuries and some cases death.
According to statistics done by the IPOA(Independent Police Oversight Authority) in Kenya in 2014; 75000 of major assaults occur annually and yet only 20% get reported to authorities. They have attributed this to poor linkage between the authorities and the people; hence this is the problem we have set out to achieve. Nairobi alone averages about 10 car jackings per day and most of these are often responded due to the lack of efficient communication between victims and potential help. In most African cities, criminal activities are on the rise with the general increase in modernization.
It is estimated that there are nearly 50 different numbers to call in Nairobi for health emergency help. In summary, these are: 2 central hotlines + 24 ambulance numbers + 21 public and private hospitals + some unrecorded ones.
There are slightly over 130 functional ambulances in Nairobi with about 80 of them in active daily operation. As per the WHO, there requires about a further 70 ambulances in the city alone to satisfy the 1 ambulance to 50,000 people ratio.
Many of the dormant ambulances have been grounded as a result of lack of demand, when in reality, lack of access to this infrastructure leads to loss of thousands of lives annually in the city alone. This worrying statistics are replicated across other African and developing countries’ cities. In Kenya, during medical emergencies, ambulances are the 5th transportation response option considered by many trailing behind to private vehicles, motorcycles, public transport and being carried or walked to the hospital which further emphasizes the fact that many victims lack appropriate access to them.
What are some of your products and how has uptake been like since you launched?
The Usalama Platform has been our main product. We have also done bespoke software (web apps, mobile apps and desktop) for corporates and other firms. However, our focus is around our main product, Usalama.
These are our main landmarks:
Winner – Next Gen Franchising by the International Franchise association 2018, Winner HiiL innovating Justice Challenge from the Netherlands 2017, Finalists Africa prize by the royal academy of engineering 2017, winners Innovate counties challenge by The UN habitat and Bithub Africa 2017, Winners Innovate for Life by AMREF Africa 2018, Finalists Pitch at Palace Africa 2017, Winners Start.up Germany Tour 2017
We have only just tapped into this market, so far, we have 4000 active downloads, we have linked over 2500 people to help and have onboarded 7 service providers. The opportunity here is amazing. Because the problem is not just in Kenya but all over Africa. In Kenya alone there 2000 emergency service providers (security firms, ambulance companies and road side rescue companies), and with 67% smart phone penetration the market is estimated at 10 billion dollars.
Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
Flares and Upesy:
Unlike our competitors; our solution is an open architecture that links emergency service providers to end users who may need help during emergency in a fast, efficient and effective way. This means that as many emergency service providers can be linked to as many end users.
Usalama has an elaborate feedback mechanism that allows the service provider to track the emergency response status Like how Uber users can track their taxi.
Usalama is also built to seamlessly scale based on the size of each emergency service provider. As a provider grows the platform expands with minimum costs.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
At the beginning it was tough convincing service providers to sign up and pay monthly for using our platform. They were afraid of the new concept but we eventually convinced them by allowing a month trial with a commitment to continue paying. Right now, our main focus is on boarding more service providers.
What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
My advice would be two: to put Jesus first in everything they do. This far we have reached it’s His Grace.
Secondly be diligent and consistent in all that you do. Just focus on delivering an amazing experience for your clients and users then everything else will follow. The funding will follow, more customers will follow, publicity will follow etc.