South African developers in Android finals

[Image] Rainbow Racer is a physics-based racing
game that allows the user to navigate a
ball through a series of obstacles
into a goal post.
(Image: market.android.com)

[Image] The Wedding Plandroid application is a
useful wedding planning tool for
brides and grooms.
(Image: market.android.com)

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Wilma den Hartigh

Two South Africans have done the country proud by being selected as finalists in the Android Developer Challenge for sub-Saharan Africa. Hosted by Google, the competition tasked entrants with developing new, high quality applications for mobile users in Africa and around the world, using Google’s open source Android operating system.

Entrants were invited to submit applications related to three broad categories: entertainment, media and games; social networking and communication; and productivity, tools, and local and geo services.

Five finalists were selected from a group of more than 200 submissions and 30 semi-finalists – among them are Herko Lategan and Richard Marsh from South Africa.

The other finalists are Nigerians Chike Maduegbuna, Bobola Oniwura and Tope Omotunde, developers of AfriNolly; Kenyan David Lemayian for his Olalashe application; and Gerald Kibugi, also from Kenya, for Shopper’s Delight.

The nomination is an important achievement for South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa as it recognises and honours the continent’s contribution to mobile application and software development.

Rainbow Racer

Lategan’s application, Rainbow Racer, is a physics-based racing game that allows the user to navigate a ball through a series of obstacles into a goal post. To play the game, users have to tilt the device to roll the ball in a particular direction.

Players can also compete and share scores in their country, region, and even against the whole world.

Users have described Rainbow Racer as a highly addictive and challenging game with beautiful artwork and graphics.

According to Google, the game has been downloaded from the Android Market more than 5 000 times since October last year. It currently holds a rating of 3.5 stars out of a possible five.

Lategan works as a fulltime software developer in the Western Cape province. He remembers being just 12 years old when his love for computers began. Back then, he was experimenting with QBasic, a programming language.

He says that he enjoyed developing the Android application. “My favourite programming languages are C++ and Java, and with Android I could use both,” he says.

Rainbow Racer has been such a success that Lategan decided to establish Starburst Games, a game development company.

Wedding Plandroid

The Wedding Plandroid application, developed by Marsh, is a useful wedding planning tool for brides and grooms. The aim of the application is to take the hassle out of wedding planning by managing wedding budgets, guest lists, wedding-orientated tasks and vendors – all from a central point.

The budget section allows users to budget for more than 100 wedding and honeymoon items, including a pre-loaded list which users can customise to suit their needs.

Marsh says that Android is an ideal and accessible operating system for application development. It was for this reason that he decided to submit his application to the Android Developer Challenge.

“From my initial research, I found that Android provides the easiest, cheapest and most accessible method to get started with app development,” he says.

Wedding Plandroid is also available on the Android Market and, with a rating of 4.5 stars, has already been downloaded more than 10 000 times since October 2011.

More finalists from Africa

The AfriNolly mobile application took first prize in the entertainment category of the Android Developer Challenge for sub-Saharan Africa.

The developers explain that the application was created to showcase the African entertainment industry. It allows users to access African movie trailers, music videos, online comedy, celebrity updates, gossip and entertainment news.

The Olalashe application is a distress-alerting mobile application that enables users to send a preset text message or email alert if they are in trouble. The message, which includes the sender’s location, is sent to everyone listed as an “in case of emergency” contact.

The Olalashe application is ideal for mobile users in Africa as it and similar applications can increase people’s sense of security and make it easier to get help faster.

“In Africa, the text message is the most widely used and accepted method of communication, thus it was the best solution for sending the alarm,” says Olalashe developer David Lemayian, founder and CEO of Capefield Ltd.

The developers hope that neighbourhood watches or community policing organisations would use such applications in the future.

Olalashe won first prize in the social category of the 2011 Android Developer Challenge for sub-Saharan Africa.

Shopper’s Delight, developed by Gerald Kibugi, helps consumers compare product prices across nearby supermarkets using voice input and Google Maps, and also provides the location, distance from current location, and directions to shops mentioned.

According to Google figures, it is becoming one of the leading mobile shopping applications in Kenya. Its developers hope to expand the application into more markets worldwide.