Internet-users in Cameroon have been wading in internet-darkness since early 2017 when their government ordered a total shutdown of the internet in the country. However, this did nothing to hamper the efforts of entrepreneur Zuo Bruno, an ethical hacker who developed an SMS-based car tracking application. The application christened Zoomed, has been well received in the country and has garnered hundreds of users in a short while.
Cameroon has over the past 2 years interrupted internet in English-speaking regions repeatedly in a bid to quelch the unrest following mass protests by lawyers and teachers in 2016. The first shut down happened in January and lasted 94 days before being shut down for a second time in October of the same year, this time lasting 230 days according to Access Now.
Following this action, several startup founders fled the hostile environment, a move that is likely to hurt the country’s fledgling startup ecosystem. Bruno, however, has embraced adversity and developed Zoomed. “Following the disconnection, I noticed a lot of cars were being stolen and realized these stolen cars had internet-based tracking solutions installed but the owners still couldn’t locate their cars,” says Bruno, founder of Zuoix, a Cameroon-based information security start-up and parent company of Zoomed. He adds that the government’s internet shutdown incentivized him to conceive of the idea.
The innovation ironically won the 2018 Gold prize for Excellence in Scientific Research and Innovation, an award gifted by the president. The award was coupled with a $17,500 cash prize.
Zoomed is available for use by anyone who has a mobile phone and needs to monitor their vehicle, at the price of $212. It takes less than an hour to fit vehicles with the technology. Using Zoomed, the user is able to locate their automobile’s direction, speed and elevation, and perform other actions such as immobilization, voice surveillance, two-way calling and sending of SOSs. The application utilizes USSD technology rather than the internet.
The app is currently being used by over 50 companies in Cameroon and is working towards expanding into neighboring countries in the continent. “We are moving forward to other countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, and hoping for good results. Our plan is to send this application Africa-wide so that more people can enjoy the services we offer, secure their cars and have a good night rest knowing that their cars are safe.”