JCSE at Wits University in collaboration Wits DRU is calling on all innovators to digitally solve the Wits campus navigation challenge for disabled students and staff.

Image: JCSE at Wits University's Tshimogolong Digital Innovation Incubator iClub - Nomvelo Chalumbira

Image: JCSE at Wits University’s Tshimogolong Digital Innovation Incubator iClub – Nomvelo Chalumbira

AN INNOVATION project which aims to make the Wits University campus more accessible to disabled staff and students was launched in Johannesburg on Monday, March 13.

The Wits Campus Personal Navigator (#NavigateChallenge), a joint project by The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits and the Tshimologolong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, is bringing together students and non-students in an effort to use technology to solve social problems.

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, the Director, and CEO of JCSE and Professor of Software at the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering said, “The challenge is open … to non-geeks with any disciplinary background because they can join up with other people with the technical skills. We are looking for that great idea. We want people who think out of the box.”
This particular project calls on innovators, developers, and entrepreneurs with inventive and original technological ideas to collaborate in finding solutions to the challenge of inaccessibility and limited scope for movement around the Wits campus for disabled students and staff.
The #NavigateChallenge will see the entrants working closely with Wits Disability Rights Unit (DRU) in order to create a system tailored to meet the needs of students with various disabilities.
DRU’s Adaptive Technologist, Andrew Sam, who supports students with disabilities with mobility training, is looking forward to the outcome of the challenge. He said, “DRU has always had the idea to create something to assist students with better mobility on campus. However, the technology was not at the level required previously. The navigation system must be easily accessible, able to be updated quickly, add different points and routes on campus.”
Anna Charysostomou, a second-year astrophysics student with a mobility disability was excited to learn of the possibility of being able to navigate the campus on her wheelchair better and easier through a navigation system. Although Charysostomou has had a positive experience getting around campus, she said, “The system will be fantastic. It will allow a broader range of people with disabilities to get from one place to another and get to wherever they want on campus. Wits is really big, a village of its own.”
The top 10 teams will be paired with a disabled student or staff, who will give their input on what they feel is important for the navigation system. Once the winners are announced at the end of the year, the navigation system is proposed to be ready for public use within the next year.

Dwolatzky added that the challenge goes beyond the technology and is encouraging the participants to think about the business potential of their ideas. “Applicants need a business plan and a strategy of how to get their idea forward by partnering with other NGOs and businesses,” he said.
The Wits Navigate Challenge has extended the closing date until March 24, 2017, and currently, has close to 50 applicants.