After two long days of intensive work on their start-up concept “Vocoa,” a group of five final year Computer Science students from Lancaster University Ghana emerged at 9 pm on 22nd January as they second placed team in the Chocothon event.
The team of five students and their Computer Science lecturer, Mr Yaw Busia, walked away with a valuable prize of being hosted at i-Space, one of Ghana’s leading enterprise and technology hubs for 6-months.
The Chocothon event itself was staged at the Impact Hub – a globally connected innovation support centre. The Chocothon initiative is aimed at saving the global chocolate industry – which is at risk due to uncertain cocoa supplies around the world and at helping to improve the living standards of cocoa farmers in the region.
The solution designed by the Lancaster University Ghana team involves using a voice app, offered in local languages, to help cocoa farmers gain financial literacy and improve their chances of benefiting from their farms. (The name comes from combining voice with cocoa and was prompted by the use of chocolate with hackathon as ‘chocothon’).
The Lancaster team entered the competition as part of a special initiative in the Computer Science department whereby the students can gain marks for an assignment carried out in the real world – in this case, it was to design an app and present their design to an audience of industry experts. The experts who were impressed by the Lancaster students included Mr Alloysius Attah, CEO of Farmerline and one of the judges, as well as industry players such as Barry Callebaut, Nyankopa, Nestle, Fair Trade and the International Trade Centre – one of the main sponsors of the event.
The five students, Michael Ahinkurah, Kofi Akyeampong, Nana Nketiah Attafuah, Adeoluwa Fola-Alade and David Peterside have plans to research some of the background knowledge required for a successful app further during the period of the award and return for the next round of the competition in May with a view to releasing the app to help Ghana’s cocoa farmers in the not-too-distant future.