Reimagine with Eric Schmidt

Winning the Schmidt Futures Reimagine Challenge 2020

I am excited to share that I have been selected as 1 of the 20 global winners of the Schmidt Futures Reimagine Challenge 2020 challenge. Launched in August 2020, the Reimagine Challenge called on students from across the world to submit innovative solutions to spark global movements for change and build back from COVID-19. Following a rigorous evaluation process, the Reimagine Challenge team went on to select 20 winning submissions, having received 838 submissions from across the world.

Titled  “Using Technology to Elevate the Status of Smallholder Farmers and Amplify their Contribution Towards Achieving Food Security“, my submission was based on the FoodPrint Farmer platform – a blockchain-enabled platform for digitising smallholder farmer operations that I am currently building. FoodPrint was birthed whilst exploring use cases of blockchain technology in the MPhil in FinTech degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT). You can read my submission in the Reimagine Challenge Anthology which can be downloaded from here.

What it means to be named a winner

It is humbling to be named a winner in a global competition. It underscores the relevance of emerging technology in solving challenges faced in emerging economies, as well as the potential of novel data-driven business models going forward.

Being named a winner also reminds me of a quote from Brian Tracey that I try to live by – “I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.”

Relevance of such challenges for students around the globe, and especially African students

Challenges such as the Reimagine Challenge provide an opportunity for students to exercise creativity outside of the traditional academic setting, validate ideas on the global stage and accrue some innovation capital. For African students in particular, they additionally provide an opportunity to not only build diverse international networks but also demonstrate the ability to compete and contribute on the global stage! It is especially encouraging to note that 4 of the 20 winning submissions are from the UCT.

What comes next

In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, ideas do not come out fully formed. There is further prototyping and piloting required before realising product-market fit for the FoodPrint Farmer platform. Outside of building FoodPrint, I am proceeding with further research and engagements on Blockchain Technology and Data Privacy, as well as technology mentorship in South Africa.

Keep Moving Forward.

Julz

P.S. Want to be notified when there is a new post on my blog? Enter your email address and click Subscribe below.


Footnotes
  1. Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Eric Schmidt was the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011.
  2. For the Reimagine Challenge 2020, Schmidt Futures received 838 submissions from students enrolled in 264 schools in 40 different countries, representing 86 nationalities and speaking 53 primary languages.
  3. Shout out to everyone who has played a part in shaping the FoodPrint idea. This includes A/Prof Co-Pierre Georg, Oranjezicht City Farm MarketUCT MPhil FinTech class of 2019, UCT GSB’s Solution Space and the Oribi Village team.
  4. Links to official announcement and press coverage:
COVID19ZIM Aggregator

COVID19ZIM Aggregator

It is incredibly difficult to keep up with news about Coronavirus (COVID-19) – the infectious disease that currently has no vaccine and has taken the world at large by surprise. Nationwide curfews and lock-downs have become the order of the day.

Whilst the world has been battling to contain COVID-19, misleading news about it has also been spreading rapidly – especially on social media platforms, which does not help the situation. This is often exacerbated by the fact that it can also be difficult to find locally relevant information aggregated in a central place.

To this end, I have created Covid19Zim Aggregator – an online application that I hope can be a useful tool for accessing centralised, easy to understand, relevant and actionable information about COVID19 in Zimbabwe. This information includes statistics, emergency contact details and service provider details. The statistics are gathered from sources such as the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in Zimbabwe and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Covid19Zim Aggregator is mobile friendly – it is accessible, optimised and fully functional from a cellphone.

Features of Covid19Zim Aggregator include:

  • Statistics about COVID-19 in Zimbabwe (as reported by MoHCC)
  • Contact details for the hotlines setup by MoHCC. One can call the hotline by simply clicking on the contact number whilst viewing the Covid19Zim Aggregator on their cellphone
  • Twitter link for MoHCC
  • WhatsApp link for MoHCC. One can WhatsApp the  MoHCC by simply clicking on the WhatsApp link whilst viewing the Covid19Zim Aggregator on their cellphone
  • Health Tips
  • Mobile Friendly (accessible from a cellphone)

Features coming soon:

  • Service Providers and their contact details (e.g. hospitals)

You can access Covid19Zim Aggregator here – covid19zim.site

#FlattenTheCurve #StayHomeSaveLives #Covid19Zim #TellAZimbabwean

P.S. Want to be notified when there is a new post on my blog? Enter your email address and click Subscribe below.


Footnotes
  1. Covid19Zim Aggregator is an independent and unofficial web application.
  2. Comments section is at the end of the page.
VAT Included @ 14%

VAT Rate Increase in South Africa and its impact on Software Systems

On the 21st of February 2018, the then Minister of Finance in South Africa (Malusi Gigaba) announced the increase of the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate from 14% to 15% during his budget speech, the first increase since 1993. This increase is effective 1 April 2018 meaning businesses that charge VAT for their products/services will need to make the necessary adjustments before then.

I am interested in the effect this increase has on businesses that charge VAT and are heavily reliant on software systems for their sales, billing and reporting processes. The two primary considerations for these software systems that come to mind are – the original Software Design and the resulting VAT related adjustments which I will call the VAT Update Software Project.

1. Original Software Design

I imagine that questions such as “How easy and quick will it be to update the VAT rate” have been asked of development teams following the budget speech. Such questions are related to the original software design – whether a software system was designed to be flexible and future-proof. For example, can a privileged user of the system update system-wide parameters (such as VAT rate) from the system’s front end instead of requiring a change to the source code by the software development team? However, in this particular instance, I can understand how a VAT rate that has not changed in 20 years could have been hardcoded* instead of made configurable (perhaps due to an oversight by the software development team or the result of pressure from business teams/users to turn around development tasks speedily).

2. VAT Update Software Project

Regardless of whether the VAT rate was hardcoded or made configurable, updating it will require some analysis, development/user update and testing which constitute what I have called the VAT Update Software Project (one does not simply search and replace 0.14 / 1.14 / 14% with 0.15 / 1.15 / 15%). Given that the amount of time between the announcement during the budget speech and the effective date of the VAT increase is just under two months, it is most probable that the knee-jerk reaction by many of the affected businesses has been that of commissioning VAT Update Software Projects on the fly. Execution of such project requires agility in undertaking the resulting project management tasks, impact analysis, software development / VAT rate configuration update, system testing and release planning among other activities.

At present, we are just under two weeks from the effective date of the VAT rate increase. This, coupled with the public holidays on the horizon make for some pretty tight project timelines for software teams looking to deliver on VAT Update Software Projects by 1st April 2018. Here’s to holding thumbs for them!


Footnotes
  1. Hardcoding in Software Development means that updates to a variable such as VAT would require a change to the source code by a Software Developer. The opposite of this would be making it configurable by an end user such that they can login to the system and update it perhaps from a Configuration menu.
react-native development

7 Takeaways from Investigating Sluggish Performance of an HTML5 / JavaScript mobile app

I recently spent a few days investigating sluggish performance (particularly slow navigation) on an HTML5 / JavaScript based mobile application. Below is list of the main takeaways from the exercise:

  • If necessary, use libraries that result in faster touch events on mobile e.g. FastClick library to eliminate 300ms click delay between tapping an element on a screen and the corresponding click event being fired
  • Implement lazy loading for lists and tables (most HTML5 / JavaScript libraries have support for this on the respective List / ListView component)
  • Read more