“The government of Uganda doesn’t appreciate and recognize our innovations yet outside countries do. That is one of the biggest problems young innovators here are faced with,” Arnold Mugisha complained when we met at Innovation Village in Ntinda, Kampala.
Mugisha, 18, a form five student at Uganda Martyrs Secondary School Namugongo has been innovating since 2014 and his projects have received both local and international recognition.
His recent project, an Automatic Pill Dispensing and Medical Assistant, emerged the best entrepreneurial project in the whole continent at the European Union-IST Africa competitions.
The competition attracted more than 300 professionals from across Africa.
Also in the competition – a Ugandan Agriculture innovation – Jaguza Live Stock system emerged the first runners up. Jaguza was developed by Ronald Katamba, the Director of Afrosoft IT Solutions.
Born in Ishaka, Bushenyi (Western Uganda), Mugisha attended St. Kaggwa Primary School, St. Joseph’s Vocational Secondary School before joining Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo where he is currently studying Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Through different science fairs and exhibitions plus the help of his mentors, the ambitious innovator has honed his technology skills over time.
He is mentored by Eng. Phillipa Ngaju Makobore, the maker of Electronically Controlled Gravity Feed Infusion Set (ECGF), Katamba of Afrosoft and Prof. Micheal Ozoka who hails from Canada.
His breakthrough, a smart electronic cutting machine earned him a trip to the United States in 2014, where he rubbed shoulders with leaders in the ICT sector.
While in America, Mugisha also connected with one of his current mentors, Prof. Ozoka.
“My mentor has helped me a lot. He has given me counsel about my projects and has provided some funding to help me with my work here,” he said.
After the successful trip in the US, Mugisha started reading about and working on rocket propulsion.
“At first things seemed difficult but currently, I have launched seven times successfully and the last one was at the Speed of a Mark II [mode of a car].”
“One of my dreams is to improve space travel and work on improving engine speed. I call this; mission constellations.”
Automatic Pill Dispensing Unit
Mugisha says he started on this project in October 2015 and its first version was ready in August 2016.
He started the upgrades in December 2016 and the second version (current one) became operational in February 2017.
“The device automatically gives the right dosage to patient at the right time. It talks to the user in the language he/she understands to give some psychological comfort, monitors the patient and the patient can directly talk to it,” he explained.
It is made of wood externally with a screen for instructions and directions.
It has a 4X4 keypad for information input, led bulbs for battery status and a blinking green light which notifies the deaf on each dispensing.
An emergency button on the device sends information to the doctor on press when the patient is in a critical state and also allows the patient to talk directly to the doctor irrespective of the distance.
It has a pathway for relaying drugs to the patient, avoiding direct contact with the medical practitioner in case of a contagious disease outbreak.
Interestingly, it gives a glass of water on each dispensing and gives another cup on demand. It also sends a live stream to the doctor in case any motion is detected or at the doctor’s will.
Why Build an Automatic Pill Dispensing Unit?
“When I was a little boy, my grandmother struggled with keeping track of schedules for her medication. Sometimes she missed totally while sometimes she took the medicine very late,” he recounts.
“Being young, it didn’t disturb me a lot but gradually as I learnt the effects of poor dispensation, I thought of creating a solution in that line.”
Medication errors are of serious concern to communities and could lead to adverse effects on the life of a patient.
These errors result from non-adherence, wrong drug administration or wrong dosage which are often unintended by the patients.
“Another issue causing medication errors is low literacy rates of patients who most times cannot read or understand English,” said Mugisha.
But with this device, he said, the errors will be reduced since it is automated and speaks to the patient in their local language.
Mugisha says the device is meant for everyone in the different communities and with improvements, it can be used by more than one person.
“However, our primary target is people suffering from dementia, children, the elderly, people with terminal illness, and individuals who have undergone surgeries.”
“We also target the device to be used in areas hit by contagious diseases like Ebola and Marburg and areas with a high patient to nurse ration.”
Mugisha says the first version of the project cost a total of USD600 (approximately Shs2.1m) in research and purchase of equipment.
The second version, he adds, cost close to USD2000 (approximately Shs7.2 million)
Being a full time student, Mugisha has no income generating project yet his innovation requires money.
He says he has received financial support from his school (Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo), his mentor Prof. Ozoka and some funds from young entrepreneurs in Norway; Oskar Nyland and Christopher Aune.
Mugisha made a call to government to look out for and support innovation in Uganda to help them see light of the day.
“The government of Uganda doesn’t appreciate and recognize our innovations yet outside countries do and make efforts to fund and help us.”
“I call upon government and other stakeholders to partner with us and avail us the needed support to turn this prototype into a ready product.”
Mugisha wants to study and master genetic engineering and microbiology.
“Five years from now, I want this company to have a facility and to have our project fully working across the world.”