KAMPALA, UGANDA – Imagine being a student with a personal assistant who can do research for you, prepare notes and even remind you of your to-do coursework.
Well, it has been made digitally possible.
Some innovative young Ugandans have come up with the Academic Personal Assistant (AIDA) platform which helps students to get all the required information from their school including their grades, results, news, and notes.
First piloted at Makerere University, this personal assistant is a product of Aspen Technologies Limited, a software development company.
According to Aksam Lwanga, the CEO of Aspen Technologies, this product – which is available on both WhatsApp and by downloading a mobile application – was designed to make studying a more interesting experience.
“The solution aims at bridging the gap. When it comes to making research and receiving your results, it requires you to travel long journeys to go to those schools. But, imagine you sitting in the comfort of anywhere and you type on your phone to receive all the information that you need,” he says.
How it works.
A student is required to add the Aspen WhatsApp number to their contact list. Then they receive a link and by just typing Hi, they receive all the details such as; ‘This is AIDA, your academic personal assistant, how do you want us to help you?’
“So, you begin chatting with a virtual person to get assistance,” Lwanga says.
He notes that once the student clicks on any service, the virtual personal assistant will check if that student is already subscribed or logged in.
“If you are not logged in, it will require you to provide login credentials and as you do so, it will ask you if you consent that [we] are going to use this information to access your services. Once you consent that you want AIDA to have access to your account, it will automatically log in,” he says.
If you are subscribed, it will give you the service that you want. If you are not, it will ask you to pay a subscription depending on the services that you want. That number will give you a prompt to add money to your mobile wallet. Once the payment is received, the student starts receiving the services.
Maria Vivian Awori, the COO of Aspen Technologies, says that when they first developed AIDA at Makerere University two years ago, it was a free trial for one year for students.
“We had 200 users and started with the College of Computing and Information Sciences. By 2023, we added a payment gateway where students are required to pay Shs 2,000 per service they access monthly. Since we are dealing with students, we didn’t want to complicate this whole process and that is why we narrowed it down to a favorable price for all,” she says, noting that they have so far had hundreds of transactions this year.
And the users are grateful.
“AIDA has been helpful because since we mostly use WhatsApp in our daily interactions, AIDA has enabled me to access all my school accounts like the students’ portal and other portals to get notes. Instead of me going to platforms where we get notes or collect results that are uploaded by our lecturers, I just go to AIDA,” says Racheal Lorna Mbeiza, a Student at Makerere University.
Linda Arwa from Makerere also says that with AIDA, students will never have to face the challenges of missing marks.
Awori says that the challenge of limited adoption and mistrust among end-users persists for startups like Aspen. This is coupled with the competition brought by the many mushrooming Technology companies on the market.
“The 40 Days 40 FinTechs program is very helpful in enhancing the market strategy that we are trying to follow because of the visibility it provides,” she says.
“We also believe that the program will also help us to venture into other different sectors because we want to put the academic personal assistant into other different sectors like health to help them keep track of the different operations they are handling.”
Aspen is the 21st participant in the fourth season of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative that has become a household name in the financial technology space of the East African region.
Minus AIDA, Aspen has other solutions such as E-Commerce and Enterprise Resource Planning systems.
According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, in the last three editions, more than 100 FinTechs have been showcased, highlighting stories changing people’s lives, especially in the under-served sectors.
This initiative is run by HiPipo in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Life-changing stories from more than 100 FinTechs have been highlighted by this initiative in the past three years.