Ernest, ETT Scholar and Winner of MIT-MISTI Faculty Seed Grant

Dr. Ernest from Makerere University is the first Empowering the Teacher (ETT) Fellow to apply and win one of the coveted Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MIT-MISTI) Faculty SEED Grants in Africa. The grants were created to enable international researchers and MIT faculty to conduct joint research. Since there is no fund specifically dedicated to Africa, Ernest won through the general pool which has less than 30% acceptance rate.

How did you find out about the grant?

For some time now, the Artificial Intelligence and Data Science (AIR) group at Makerere has been doing some work on automating expert tasks in agricultural research ( Through the ETT ( program that was sponsored by Total E&P Uganda, I was able to visit MIT for about 15 weeks. During my visit, I made contacts with several researchers and professors to successfully apply and attain the MIT-MISTI SEED grant. The grant is intended for work on the project entitled "Using mobile technology for viral crop disease identification and analysis”, undertaken by AIR in collaboration with Prof. Lalana Kagal at MIT.

How will the grant assist the AIR group in achieving the project?

The AIR research lab ( at the School of Computing & IT, Makerere University will collaborate with the Decentralized Information Group (DIG) at MIT to work on the project to develop an Artificial Intelligence powered mobile application. The app will use crowd sourcing techniques to gather information and computational techniques in machine learning to diagnose crop images. Validation and impact of our research will come to completion when a small-holder farmer in a remote part of Uganda is able to take a picture of crops in her garden and get immediate feedback on the health of the crops as well as potential remedial treatments.

How long will it take to implement the project?

The implementation of the project will involve a lot of interaction between researchers and students from the DIG group at MIT and the team at Makerere. It will also involve a lot of travel for both teams right from stage of information gathering in February 2016 to the piloting of the project and training of team members. We hope to conclude the project by the end of August 2016.

What has been the impact of the MIT programme on the project?

Total E&P Uganda sponsored the Empower the Teacher (ETT) program to offer lecturers an opportunity to visit MIT for the duration of a semester during which time they interface with the teaching and research faculty at MIT, learn better teaching methodologies and form linkages for collaborative research. During the ETT fellowship, I made linkages with MISTI that supported MIT students to come to Uganda and spend 6 weeks doing some work in our Artificial Intelligence and Data Science research lab at Makerere University. It was through these activities and several visits to different research labs at MIT during the fellowship that led to a joint application for this Seed Grant. It could not have happened without the generous support from Total. Apart from this we intend to host several other students from MIT this summer to come and work with our group at Makerere University doing important research projects to alleviate the plight of the small holder farmer in Uganda.


"Through the generous support from Total, I was able to form linkages with MISTI and coordinate several visits to MIT that led to a joint application for this seed grant"

Short Resume

  • 2009 - Present

    Researcher (Machine Learning & Image Processing), Artificial Intelligence & Data Science Research group, Makerere University

  • 2014

    PhD in Computer Science (Machine learning), University of Groningen, Netherlands

  • 2005

    Masters degree in Computer Science, Makerere University

  • 2003

    Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering, Makerere University

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