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Mak’s AirQo Project is a US$1.3m Google AI Impact Grantee

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Google has announced Makerere University’s AirQo Prototype among the best 20 Artificial Intelligence projects that will share $25 million in grants from Google.org. AirQo is an air monitoring project that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and low-cost technologies to generate and quantify data on air pollution in the designated areas in Uganda.

“The data collected is used to inform public policies on reducing, containing and better management of air pollution and its associated health risks. The same data is also used to raise awareness on air quality issues,” said Dr. Engineer Bainomugisha the Project Leader during a press conference held on Wednesday, 8th May 2019. Dr. Bainomugisha is also the Chair, Department of Computer Science, College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Makerere University.

The AirQo Project is run by a team comprising students and staff from the Department of Computer Science, School of Computing and Information Technology, CoCIS. The project was successfully developed in 2016 with the aim of contributing to the improvement of urban ambient air quality.  It tested and validated a robust, low-cost air monitoring device and algorithm.

With limited funding and support, the project was implemented in places within Kampala and other urban places of Mbale, Manafwa, Bundibugyo and Bududa. According to Dr. Bainomugisha, the required data on air quality within the aforementioned areas is collected through the integration of the AirQo device with a Mobile application.

Dr. Engineer Bainomugisha (Right) shows Prof. William Bazeyo (Left) the AirQo Mobile App that gathers data from the 50 sensors deployed Nationally. The App is available for download on Google Play Store.

“We receive data on the air quality of specific places through a mobile App that is installed on our phones. In areas that are hard to reach we have used the Artificial Intelligence to make predictions based on data collected so far.  We also work with Boda boda riders by installing the AirQo device on their motorcycles to help us reach various places for data collection,” he explained.

Mr. Paul Green, a member of AirQo Project team said that the device is useful in determining the air conditions of institutions such as schools and hospitals. “AirQo can be very beneficial for school children especially those with allergies,” he said.

The AirQo project team will receive a US$1.3million grant to scale up their existing air quality monitoring coverage and to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve forecasting accuracy, raise awareness of air quality issues and inform public policy making in this critical area. As a grantee of the Google AI Impact Challenge, the team will receive credit and consulting benefits from Google Cloud and coaching by Google’s AI experts.

“We are thrilled to be receiving a grant from Google.org to support the AirQo project. With little resources, we have demonstrated that it is possible to build and deploy a robust network of low-cost air quality monitors across Kampala city. The Google grant will make a huge difference to our project and allows us to truly scale up the network up to become an effective resource for all Ugandan citizens and policy makers,” said Dr. Bainomugisha.

The AirQo Project Team (Standing) receives a round of applause from the audience recognising their efforts

Representing the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration), Prof. William Bazeyo acknowledged the tremendous work done by Dr. Bainomugisha and his team in developing an innovation that tackles community challenges.

“You have joined the line of prominent people whose deeds have left Makerere University shining. With your skills and knowledge, you have raised the institution’s flag high to be recognized by international organizations,” he said.  

Prof. Bazeyo congratulated the AirQo project team upon receiving the Google.org grant to scale their innovation. Noting the increasing population density in the country, Prof. Bazeyo said, “Our population as a country is rapidly increasing and as such additional pressure is being exerted on our cities. Air pollution is one of the biggest threats in this regard. This timely innovation is no mean achievement in as far as utilizing research and technology to the improve lives of our urban population is concerned.”

Prof. Bazeyo also noted that AirQo’s innovation would provide valuable data to the Makerere University Lung Institute; one of two specialists institutes of its kind in Africa.  

The Principal CoCIS-Prof. Tonny Oyana (Right) and Deputy Principal CoCIS- Assoc. Prof. Agnes Rwashana Semwanga (Left) at the Press Conference to announce the US$ 1.3m Grant awarded to AirQo.

The Principal CoCIS, Prof. Tonny Oyana applauded Dr. Engineer Bainomugisha and his team for the persistent hard work that has fruitfully led to an international award and recognition. “With this new funding expert support from Google, the project is going to be seamlessly scaled up,” he said.

The Google AI Impact Challenge was an open call to nonprofits, social enterprises, and research institutions from around the world to submit their ideas that use AI to help address societal challenges.  2,602 applications were received from 119 countries and 40% of applications received came from organizations with no prior AI experience.

Google.org president, Jacqueline Fuller said: “At Google, we have seen how AI can help us accomplish daily tasks and travels, and we believe in its potential to help address some of the world’s biggest humanitarian challenges. We are excited to support Makerere University’s AirQo project work to use AI to achieve even greater social impact.”

Next week, representatives from the AirQo project will travel to San Francisco to dive into execution. For five days, all 20 organizations will join Google AI experts, Project Managers and the startup specialists from Google’s Launchpad Accelerator for a program that will last six months, from May to November 2019. Through the Launchpad program, each of the 20 grantees will develop their own OKRs— Objectives and Key Results and set timelines for project completion. Each organization will be paired with a Google expert who will meet with them regularly for coaching sessions. They will also have access to other Google resources and expert mentorship.

Article by Nabatte Proscovia, Mak Public Relations Office

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UNMA Advisory on Agriculture and Food Security Jun-Aug 2021

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A male researcher inspects a maize cob in a demonstration plot on 13th August 2010 at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK), Wakiso Uganda.

The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) on 7th June 2021 released the seasonal rainfall outlook for the June-July-August (JJA) 2021 period. Contained in the outlook were advisories to various strategic sectors of the economy.

Particularly, the advisory to the Agriculture and Food Security sector was;

  • JJA season is often part of the normal dry season in the areas of South-western, western, parts of the eastern, and central Uganda. The farming communities in these areas are therefore advised to be vigilant during post-harvest handling by considering proper drying of the harvest on clean surfaces, use of tarpaulins and drying on racks;
  • Preparation of good storage facilities of produce to avoid compromising on quality and safety;
  • Channeling of the run-off water into the gardens in order to maximize on the soil moisture conservation;
  • For those areas where near normal to above normal rainfall is expected (most parts of northern and eastern Uganda), farmers are encouraged to continue with regular weeding, pest and disease surveillance and control;
  • Due to the expected enhanced rainfall in those areas, water logging and proliferation of fungal and bacterial crop diseases are likely to occur.
  • Open drainage channels around household and gardens to reduce risks from stagnant water causing damage to root tuber crops;
  • Flash floods and waterlogging are highly anticipated to occur in low lying areas expected to receive enhanced rainfall such as Katakwi and Kapelebyong. Therefore, communities are encouraged to keep watch over their crops, animals and property;
  • In Karamoja sub-region, where wetter conditions are expected, the pastoral communities are advised to diversify into boosting the production of cereals (sorghum, millet, and maize), beans, and ground nuts and sustain pasture availability for livestock.

Please see Downloads for the detailed outlook.

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4th Call For Applications: MURBS Departmental Ambassadors

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URBRA’s Mrs. Ritah Nansasi Wasswa (2nd L) assisted by Ag. University Secretary-Mr. Yusuf Kiranda (L) hands over a plaque of recognition to Outgoing Trustee-Ms. Dorothy Nannozi Kabanda (2nd R) as Incoming Trustee-Ms. Franco Angida Mugyema (R) applauds during the MURBS Board Handover on 26th March 2021.

In February 2018, the Makerere University Retirement Benefits Scheme (MURBS) launched the Departmental Ambassadors Programme. MURBS hopes to use this Ambassadors Programme to engage more directly with its membership and enhance member education. MURBS further perceives this Programme as a means to mitigate succession planning risks.

MURBS Fund Value continues to grow, and as at 31st March 2021, it stood at Ushs 235.5bn as compared to Ushs 209.6bn as at 30th June 2020. Given this growth, there is increased need for prospective Trustees, who are well equipped with relevant knowledge and skills, and with practical exposure to the management and governance of MURBS.

Eligibility

  1. Must be employed by the University on permanent terms
  2. Must be an Active Member of the Scheme (currently contributing to the Scheme) and appear on the Official Register of the MURBS Active Membership as at 30th April 2021.
  3. Must be willing to commit time to trainings and other ambassadorial activities organised by the Scheme.

Mode of training for 4th Cohort of Ambassadors

Training for this (4th) Cohort of Ambassadors is envisaged to be conducted over the zoom online platform only, due to Covid-19 restrictions. The Scheme does not envisage any face-to-face interactions.

Tenure of Office & Termination or Withdrawal

There is no tenure of office for the Departmental Ambassador. As long as a member is willing to continue serving as an Ambassador, and the Ambassador continues to satisfy the eligibility criteria above, she or he will remain a MURBS Ambassador.

How to Apply

Interested members should complete the MURBS Departmental Ambassador Application Form 01-0218. The completed Form together with the requested attachments should be sent to info[at]murbs.mak.ac.ug and copy to wilber.naigambi[at]mak.ac.ug no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, 14th June 2021. We discourage hand delivery of applications.

Confirmation/Approval Process

MURBS shall acknowledge receipt of each application received within 12 hours and will respond to the applicants to confirm the status of their application in writing (by e-mail). Upon approval of the application, the name of the approved Ambassador together with the Department and School/Unit will be updated on the list of the MURBS Departmental Ambassadors in the Group 4 category and published on the MURBS website.

NOTE: There is no limit as to the number of ambassadors that MURBS can have in a department.

Please see Downloads for the detailed call and application form.

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Chair Council Communication on Closure of Makerere University

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An older photo of the Main Building, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda as seen from across the Freedom Square. Date taken: 22nd October 2012.

7th June 2021

All Members of Staff
All Students and Stakeholders
Makerere University

RE: CLOSURE OF MAKERERE UNIVERSITY

Following the address to the Nation by H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda, on 6th June 2021, this is to inform you that the University will be closed with effect from today 7th June 2021 for 42days.

During the closure, the University shall observe a 30% physical presence of staff while other faculty and administrative staff shall continue to work online.

Management will inform staff and students on the implementation of teaching, learning, and research activities online. Construction activities shall continue as per the President’s directives and with strict adherence to the COVID-19 SOPs.

Yours sincerely,

Lorna Magara (Mrs.)
Chairperson, Makerere University Council

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