Aurecon, in co-operation with the eThekwini Municipality and other stakeholders, is investing in the future of eThekwini by means of the Innovate Durban platform, launched by the municipality in 2014 to improve the city by bringing together businesses, academics, communities and other partners to build skills and foster innovation. The Youth Innovation Challenge (YIC), one of Innovate Durban’s flagships, focuses on creating a platform for youth empowerment.
The challenge aims to provide participants with the knowledge they need for new, creative solutions to eThekwini’s energy, water, waste, mobility, ICT and urban renewal challenges.
The winners of the challenge were announced at the 2017 YIC Awards event. From creating a Facebook Chatbot to developing a solution to prevent water wastage in townships and rural areas, they showed how learning, collaboration and mentorship can unlock innovation.
Feather Design’s Mlungisi Nzimande and his team (Zathaba Ndlovu, Sandile Khuzwayo, Thulani Joyisa and Sibanisezwe Dube) were awarded top honours for their Facebook Chatbot, which improves the municipality’s ability to address comments and service reports from its social media channels.
The bot essentially uses Facebook Messenger as a platform for customers to contact the municipality. This previously entailed capturing reports before the municipality could respond. Now, the bot feeds the database and the municipality needs only to check the database to dispatch technicians.
The winning team will undergo a three-month mentorship programme at Aurecon’s eThekwini office.
Brendon Clark, Njabulo Shange, Sphamandla Msane and Sphelele Dumisa developed a low-cost computer which uses an open source operating system and runs on solar power. The prototype ranfor two days without charging. When connected to the power grid, the team’s computer runs at a cost of R25 a month as opposed to R250 a month for conventional computers. The team, who earned second prize, plans to use their winnings to build enough computers for a pilot at a school.
Innovators Technology’s Ntando and Yenziwe Ndimande developed a prototype of a foot operated tap to promote water conservation and hygiene. Instead of opening a tap, the user steps on a lever. Releasing the lever shuts the tap automatically and prevents water wastage. The team intends to test and introduce the innovation to the market once a prototype has been made.
Richard Ahlschlager, Aurecon Group, Tel 031 714-2519, firstname.lastname@example.org