By Patrick Opio
Senior Communications Officer
Excerpts of the DVC’s citation for students and staff who excelled in research and innovation at the 5th graduation ceremony held on 19th Jan. 2024:
Lira University continues to punch well above its weight in the area of research and innovations with little to no direct government funding for research and innovations. Of special mention are four student innovators from Lira University and two academic staff among many others who are already shaking the nation and the entire global stage with their cutting-edge research and innovations:
- Kakooza Steven (Kawu Smart Card)
Kawu Smart Card is the brainchild of Steven Kakooza, Bachelor of Science in Computer science student who graduated in 2023. It started as a final year project with financial support from Lira University. It later won a 75 million Shillings grant from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and was launched at Lira University by the Minister for Science and Technology. The Kawu Smart Card is now serving over 30,000 students in 60 schools across the country. It emerged as the winner of the 2022 Digital Innovations for Business Resilience in Uganda and went ahead to win the Digital Innovations for Business Resilience in Uganda East African Community saward ame year, an event organised under the Inter-University Council of East Africa. The Kawu Smart Card was also honoured and awarded a Presidential Award as one of the best innovations in East Africa, an award that was handed over to Kakooza Steven by the Vice president of Uganda. Furthermore, this card has been recognised by the HiPipo Foundation with the support from the Bill & Melinda Foundation as a Financial Inclusion Excellence that empowers the youths.
Recently at the end of the year 2023, this innovation was selected to represent Lira University in Dubai by Prototypes for Humanity where leading innovations from several universities around the world come together to solve real world problems. There were only two Universities from E.A that were represented out of the 100+ Innovations from universities around the world that were selected.
This former undergraduate final year project is now a company recently valued at USD 2M, and has attracted overUSD 150,000 in investments and is employing 10 youths, some of whom are graduating today.
- Emmanuel Ekwara (Optimization of Premium Cassava Products):
In 2022, the Apokor Cassava value Chain Addition project by Emmanuel Ekwara a third year Public Health student of Lira University won a 1 billion Shillings Grant from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. The focus was the development of superior value-added cassava products, including Starch, High-Quality Cassava Flour, Garri, Animal Feeds, Baby Food Composites, and a diverse array of cassava-based baked goods such as cakes, bread, doughnuts, chapatti, cookies, and Daddies. The project has made the following achievements: Sensory Evaluation and Product Testing, Technical and Economic Validation, Development of Sustainable Prototype, Exploration of High-Yield Cassava Varieties, and Establishment of Mini Pilot Plant at Apokor in Tororo District. The project has 3 full time employees and 5 part time consultants.
- (Sarah Kwerit Chebijira) Environmental Impact Innovation
In the realm of environmental impact, Sarah Kwerit Chebijira, a Lira University student of Community Psychology and Psychotherapy who is graduating today, transcends disciplinary boundaries. Confronted by the high level of waste mismanagement in Ugandan cities, she initiated Eco-sense Cities Uganda—a venture dedicated to revolutionizing waste practices in all eleven cities, with a current focus on the pilot location, Lira City. The project aims to harness energy and create economic opportunities from waste. Her Waste Collection App, UG-Cities, was launched in Lira City by the City Mayor in 2022.
She currently serves as a United Nations Youth Fellow, where she is actively contributing to youth-focused initiatives and advocating for sustainable development, both locally and globally. She has represented both the university and the country at international conferences, including the Conference of Parties COP27 in 2022 in Egypt, COP28 recently in Dubai; The African Climate Summit 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya, The World Food Forum in Rome, Italy, during 2022 and 2023, the New York Climate Week 2023, where, with the collaborative support of her peers, she orchestrated a side event focusing on raising awareness about New Climate Altering Technologies and the urgent need for their governance. Additionally, she was engaged in The 2023 Young African Leadership Initiative in Nairobi, Kenya, participating in an extensive month-long leadership training program and continues to be part of the YALE fellows mentorship network todate.
Her involvement extended to significant international platforms, such as The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum 2023 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where she played a vital role in drafting and editing the youth position paper. She also actively contributed to The Climate Ambition Summit 2023, participating in several panel discussions on climate action in Africa, and The International Astronautical Congress in Azerbaijan in 2023, where she was recognized as a 2023 Emerging Space Leader by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). Notably, she has assumed a new role as an advisory board member for African Girls and Women for Space Robotics.
She is also currently supporting the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY) in conducting youth consultation internationally ahead of the Summit of the Future in New York this September 2024. She is also currently coordinating in organizing a side event set to take place during the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, scheduled from the 26th to 1st March 2024. The event aims to raise awareness among young people about the new climate-altering technologies and the pressing need for their governance.
Beacon Hostels | Lyte app. (To be launched today)
The Lyte app is an innovation of Lira University Students led by Bachelor of Science in Computer Science student Mr. Nahurira Gaston. This application focusses on easing access to accommodation, housing and real estates across Uganda. Properties covered include Hostels, Apartments, Hotels, Real estates, Rentals and all other housing facilities. The application can be accessed from Google Play store by searching “Lyte app”. The application has an extension of the Beacon Hostels site which can be accessed from www.beaconhostels.com and is already in use for booking hostels around Lira University online.
Lyte app managed to become the award-winning innovation of the national DemoDay competition organized by Google in July 2023 in Kampala. Lyte App has become the leading product under sustainable development in Lango innovations award. The app has been showcased to different events including NCHE 13th blended exhibition, The Secretariate from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and other more.
This innovation is employing 20 youth, has been downloaded 500 times, and 50 managers and properties have been uploaded so far.
This app was developed with a vision to revolutionize the hospitality industry through providing a platform for accessibility of affordable accommodation and housing properties to the public. This shall contribute largely to Making Uganda a better place to live in. Its my humble request, your excellency that you launch this business today.
Academic Staff Research
Your Excellency, I would also like to honor one of our academic staff among many,
1. Ms. Anna Grace Auma, Dean Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery who has made a distinguished contribution towards research at Lira University. Through Ms. Auma’s initiative as Principal Investigator, the Center for International Reproductive Health training at the University of Michigan in partnership with Lira University established the Sexual and Reproductive Health Resource Center, which has been able to achieve the following:
- Restructured and equipped the skills training laboratory for Nurses and Midwives at the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery.
- Trained Faculty and Clinical staff on Teaching and Assessment methods.
- Established and equipped the Family planning clinic and the gynaecology clinic at LUH and Lira Regional Referral Hospital
- Constructed a waiting shade for patients at LRRH and LUH
- Established and equipped the Lira University Research Ethics Committee office, accelerated the process of REC approval
- Procured and installed 3 sets of audio-visual conferencing equipment at the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery and the obstetric unit of LRRH
- Provided 20 research seed grants to 20 research teams at Lira Universitythat are being published in peer-reviewed journals.
- Facilitated 10 teams to travel to Kigali for an international conference and 9 teams to travel to France for the FIGO conference in October 2023
- Sponsored the first Gulu and Lira University scientific symposium, which was attended by hundreds of delegates including the Minister for Health, commissioners, and the Division of Nurses and Midwives.
- Established and equipped an E-library for medical training at Lira University
- Held stakeholder engagement meetings with community and hospitals for quality improvement initiatives
Dr. Bernard Omech, Senior Lecturer in Faculty of Public Health and Ag. Director Research and Graduate School was Co-investigator in the recently completed three-year Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU)-CHASE project, led by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and funded by the European Union. Dr. Omech and his research team attracted investment worth 2 billion Uganda shillings to support nutrition-specific interventions in the Acholi and Lango sub-regions. The primary deliverables included 200 million in nutrition equipment to establish a center for the prevention and control of chronic diseases at Lira University Teaching Hospital, 200 million in equipment for health centers, 220 million to complete the Center for Sexual Education Training and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, and purchase of sports equipment at Lira University.