Celebrating Excellence: UNIMA graduates emerge as ICTAM winners

Graduates who have passed through the University of Malawi are demonstrating exceptional results in the industry, showcasing their innovative contributions and excellent performance in diverse workplaces. Two UNIMA graduates who graduated in October this year, Mr Matthews Jere (Bachelor of Computer Science) and Ms Tadala Muwalo (Bachelor of Science) from the School of Natural and Applied Sciences, emerged victorious in a competition that was organized by ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) with support from various companies.

During the ICTAM annual general meeting held at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi on 24th and 25th November, 2023, awards were presented to winners in various categories, including Health and Agriculture. The duo, Jere and Muwalo, impressed the judges with their brilliant presentation and innovation. They emerged as winners in the Health category, receiving an award of MK1,000,000 from the event sponsors, National Bank of Malawi. Among all the winners in different categories, the duo’s innovation stood out, also marking them as winners of the Overall Open category award, which merited an additional prize of MK500,000.

In addition to the cash prizes, the duo was also granted an incubation program. ICTAM, with sponsorship from NBM, will incubate the winning innovation, providing technical and business support. Additionally, they will assist in developing the innovation from its prototype stage up until it becomes a fully usable product that is market-ready. The duo will also be provided with skills for running the business.

The competition was open to everyone, and as a result, the two students competed against a diverse selection of professionals, developers, and innovators, including those from academia and the private sector. Participating universities included the University of Malawi (UNIMA), Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) and the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS).

Jere and Muwalo developed a mobile application called Khungulanga, an AI-powered skin disease diagnosis application. Through the application, patients can scan or upload a picture from their gadget and receive advice on  potential diseases they might be suffering from.

“Khungulanga uses computer vision to classify skin diseases. Users upload a skin picture on their smartphone, and the AI algorithm provides the top three possible diseases with their probabilities. Currently, we are developing an expert system that gathers more information by asking questions, aiming to enhance prediction accuracy, especially in cases where lesions are similar. The results from the app can be forwarded to a dermatologist for confirmation and treatment prescription, or the patient can be referred to a hospital,” Jere said.

“We identified a gap between patients and dermatologists, where the ratio of dermatologists to the number of patients does not align. There are thousands of people suffering from skin diseases, yet there are only a few dermatologists to assist them. While some solutions are being developed, they often exhibit bias, working better on lighter skin tones than on darker skin tones. Consequently, Khungulanga was developed to build and train models specifically tailored to work effectively on black skin,” Muwalo commented.

The duo additionally emphasized that Khungulanga aims to provide accessible dermatological services to a wide audience within the comfort of their homes that will enable early diagnosis of skin diseases and treatment through telemedicine. They further stated that the application can be utilized by practitioners in their respective fields to enhance their ability to diagnose skin diseases.

Leveraging the knowledge and skills gained during their university studies, UNIMA students showcase creativity through diverse innovations, securing victories on both local and global stages.