Lighting Lamwo

Lighting Lamwo

“I’m able to continue serving my customers till as late as 10pm. This extension has doubled my daily income”  shares Nancy Amito, a small restaurant owner in Palabekogilli Trading Centre, a largely refugee-populated village in Lamwo district. A good number of us can appreciate living in suburbs or urban areas that enjoy having continuous access to electricity. We might take something as simple as flipping on a switch when dusk arrives for granted but for communities such as Nancy’s this is but a luxury. 27% of Uganda’s population has access to any kind of electricity, the number drops to 10% in rural areas.. This contradicts Uganda’s renewable energy endowment and implies a lack of utilization of energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass.

To provide power to unelectrified areas, the government needs to plan how best to use the available resources. In some cases, the electricity grid is to be extended, and in others there can be alternative solutions such as solar mini-grids or solar home systems. This planning can be difficult as there is limited data on exactly how large settlements are, how much commercial activity there is in each, or whether there are schools, hospitals or administrative buildings that require power. This is where data-driven technology, for example processing satellite images, can help.

With the realization that sustainable electrification is a key factor in significantly bolstering socio-economic development, Sunbird AI is supporting the Fair Forward-AI for All project of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Agency for International Cooperation – GIZ) and The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in implementing the National Electrification Strategy (NES) that aims at connecting 10 million households to the most optimal energy source by 2030. We developed an open data site identification system based on satellite imagery and other data sources to increase the accuracy of planning assumptions of selections for renewable energy sites and energy source options in Lamwo district.

Detailed view of the Lamwo Electrification App

The map zooms into the village center and provides a visual depiction of the building outlines as automatically detected from the Open Buildings dataset. We further analyse this to categorise types of buildings, for example permanent or non-permanent buildings. We find that the layout of a settlement and the shapes and sizes of settlements gives rich information about the requirements for electricity. It can also tell us whether solar mini-grids are feasible for each settlement, as there are constraints in how far apart buildings can be. We further analyse the demand and supply side of electrification in the selected village providing possible options of electrification and how likely they are to be suitable for the particular village. For example, we use satellite based wind speed estimates to evaluate whether wind power is feasible, and look at vegetation (outside of protected areas) to assess biomass potential.

Full view of Mini-Grids

According to Denis Ongola, an on-site electrician for Winch Energy, the mini-grids have so far been installed in 25 villages across Lamwo. These mini-grids are between 20 to 80kwh worth of energy, serving between 50 to 200 households according to a village’s needs. “Unlike before, community members are now running their businesses 24/7. Some of these businesses include millet and maize grinding mills, salons, welding and retail shops. Members even commune at newly-opened sports-centers to enjoy football matches.”

Lamwo’s LC5 Chairperson Mr. Oyet Sisto resounds his people’s preference for mini-grid connections because of their reliability as well as the on-ground presence of technicians in-case any glitches arise.

After a field visit to Lamwo, our Executive Director, Dr. Ernest Mwebaze noted the establishment of mobile money and agent banking services such as Airtel and EquiDuuka which relieves the burden of moving from one place to another in order to make simple money transactions. It was also interesting to note that as a result of the mini-grids, there’s a stronger sense of security because people no longer move in complete darkness. 

As we continue making concerted efforts towards a just energy transition powered by renewables, one thing is clear: There’s a chance to economically transform grassroot communities by leveraging AI to find clean and sustainable energy sources. 

Sunbird’s strategic partnership with Cente-tech to leverage AI for socio-economic development

Sunbird's strategic partnership with Cente-tech to leverage AI for socio-economic development

As Artificial Intelligence continues to take center-stage, we are looking forward to the strategic partnership officiated on 6th July with Centenary Technology Services, a technology company of Centenary Group that provides holistic technology solutions and delivers innovation that matters to enable and inspire growth through ICT advisory and Research; ICT Managed Services and Infrastructure; and ICT Innovation and Digital Services. 

This collaboration is aligned towards addressing challenges to equality and inclusion, through the adoption of Artificial Intelligence technology.  Speaking at the signing, Dr Grace Ssekakubo, Chief Executive Officer at Cente-Tech said, “The MOU being signed seeks to create a framework for a successful partnership between Cente-Tech & Sunbird AI to create sustainable, scalable projects and initiatives which will leverage the deep expertise of Sunbird AI to support Cente-Tech’s strategic ambitions to utilize modern ICT innovations for socio-economic development among the rural poor.”

Adding, “With the reach we have of over 20million Ugandans within the Centenary brand, we will help alleviate exclusion through the various Artificial Intelligence applications that Sunbird AI has developed and will develop through this collaboration.” Dr Ssekakubo said.

 
Dr. Engineer Bainomugisha, Director at Sunbird AI witnesses as , Dr. Ernest Mwebaze Executive Director at Sunbird and Dr Grace Ssekakubo, Chief Executive Officer at Cente-Tech append signatures to MOU.

According to our Executive Director, Dr. Ernest Mwebaze, “Our partnership with Centenary Technology Services aims to leverage the considerable reach of Cente-Tech to hospitals and schools by building AI for social good solutions that will positively influence the lives of not only people consuming the vast services of the Centenary group, but to all Ugandans.” 

The promise of AI-based technologies is enormous, and benefits range from efficiency gains to unprecedented improvements in quality of life, especially in driving inclusion. 

 

Classification of environmental noise at the DataFest Africa 2022 Hackathon

Classification of environmental noise at the DataFest Africa 2022 Hackathon

Still buzzing about our first ever chance to participate in the DataFest Africa 2022 Hackathon.

Under this year’s theme “Big Data, Little Data and everything in between ” we were glad to provide noise data sets for participants to train a classification model that classifies noise audios into various categories and even more excited about partnering with Pollicy and Zindi Africa on making this challenge come to life. But before we go further you’re probably wondering, why noise?

If you walk up to your local trading center, you’re likely to be met with a loud fusion of different sounds. Some vendors trying to sell groceries to passersby, a truck reversing, a preacher with a loudspeaker, a herbal specialist going on about the advantages of their treatments. The closer you are to the city, the louder the area. Unlike air or water pollution, there’s no immediate substantive evidence of the negative consequences the exposure to high levels of noise does to our psyche, nervous system, productivity levels and general way of life. Pollicy’s Director of Programs, Gilbert Beyamba shares, “Noise pollution, like all other forms of pollution, is an emerging environmental health hazard in African cities, with potentially complex spatial and temporal patterns. This is further challenging due to the limited local data which is a barrier to the formulation and evaluation of patterns to reduce noise pollution.”  This leaves concerned stakeholders such as city planners, engineers and policy makers with no point of reference. 

Here at Sunbird AI, we believe we could fill this gap in Uganda by developing AI-powered tools to remotely collect, test and monitor noise in order to empower enforcement institutions such as the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) with real time, accurate and contextualized data to regulate noise levels. We piloted this project in Entebbe city, installing 7 sensors across different locations. 

Our team of engineers built autonomous solar powered noise sensors that pick-up different types of noises. These noises are then assessed to know whether the levels exceed the statutory thresholds of decibels (dBs. We then share access to a public dashboard that continuously shows noise levels across Entebbe and empower community champions as well as technical officers on how to read and develop actionable plans.

Some key terms to note;

1. dB- A decibel is a unit used to measure sound pressure levels.

2. Exceedances- Total number of times noise levels go beyond a given threshold in a given area.

 

About the Hackathon.
The hackathon that ran from July 7th to 26th, was exclusively open to African countries lasted six weeks and with over 100 participants finding solutions on how to classify noise categories using machine learning. The first, second and third place solutions won $500, $300 and $200 respectively. Sunbird AI’s goal is to integrate parts of the winning solution into our autonomous sensors to enable classification of noise on the edge. 

It was interesting for the participants to see the realization that noise, especially in capital cities, not just in Uganda but across Africa has the potential of causing serious harm. It was good to see that participants interacted with a fairly new type of data with the winning solution managing to achieve 88% accuracy on this machine learning task. 

“It is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed. Deeper and further analysis and processing should be done on the data in order to provide more insights.” Dan Ofula, a Machine Learning Engineer and Data Scientist who emerged winner remarks. 

The second runner up Youssef FADHLOUN an Embedded Telecommunications Engineer and Data Scientist went ahead to suggest ways the new noise datasets produced can be used, “Use the data to create a database of sound levels and locations for future reference. This can be used to inform policy makers so that they can come up with measures to reduce noise pollution.” 

Zindi’s competition lead Amy Bray who was in charge of coordinating and monitoring the noise challenge on the Zindi platform shared, “You don’t think about noise pollution in Africa. Africa has noisy cities. That’s it. However this data and this challenge has shown me that it doesn’t have to be like this. Why can’t Africa have the same systems other countries have, even better, why can’t Africa have solutions created by Africans for Africa that are tailored to her needs.” Lucky for you! This data will be on the Zindi platform and other data scientists interested in this problem can look at it. This data isn’t limited to noise classification and can be used to explore sound data.

We’re hoping that the solutions shared will spur the conversation on how as Africans, we can continue leveraging better data technology to mitigate some of our most pressing challenges, more specifically, challenges that are detrimental to our wellbeing over the long term. 

Sunbird AI and ioTec Limited to provide inclusive financial services

Sunbird AI and ioTec Limited to provide inclusive financial services

We’re excited to officially embark on our partnership with ioTec Limited, a financial technology company and software consultancy firm building secure enterprise software solutions to unlock economic potential by bringing services closer to individuals and businesses through intuitive, simple, secure, and instant digital channels.

ioTec limited aims at building a customer-centric and interoperable platform to democratize access to services, strengthen service-linkages between financial service providers, manufactures and SMEs while subsidizing the high platform maintenance costs. Consequently, accelerating business growth, improving quality of life and the economy at large.

Mr. Kenneth Kwesiga, ioTec’s CEO stated; “We are particularly excited about this partnership because it is strategically aligned with our objective of advancing the financial services sector through increasing access and reach of services equitably. We strongly believe that by collaborating with Sunbird AI to apply evidence-based artificial intelligence models to existing financial services data, we are able to unveil uncharted addressable markets – particularly those regarded as un-credit worthy by conventional methods that require collateral.” 

Dr. Ernest Mwebaze, Sunbird AI’s Executive Director reflects on this partnership, “We’re definitely looking forward to synergising with ioTec limited. The commendable efforts they are making in extending financial services aligns with the work we do in building practical systems to ensure there is a clear benefit to society. At Sunbird AI, we are intent on co-creating ethically sound and inclusive solutions with our partners and this collaboration with ioTec comes right on time.” 

Find out more about the work ioTec is doing here.

Wondering how you can collaborate with Sunbird AI? Check out opportunities for collaboration here.