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A mobile phone app developed by a University of KwaZulu-Natal Computer Science student is set to make high-quality maths education free and accessible to students from various socio-economic backgrounds.

Open Omnia is a web-based programme which aims to assist students who struggle with mathematics to better understand the subject by breaking down the formulas and providing step-by-step illustrations for mathematical equations.

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The creator and owner of Open Omnia, Lloyd Gordon from Pietermaritzburg, is working diligently to extend the web-based programme to an app for smartphones and tablets to enable greater accessibility to a larger group of people, thus benefiting more recipients. Scheduled for launch in April 2018, the web app is available at openomnia.com.

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A student can simply type in a mathematical problem and the service returns a step-by-step solution to the problem. This ensures that students learn how to get to the answer. The programme is available free to students from different walks of life, thereby promoting inclusivity in line with government’s radical economic transformation agenda.

“My goal is to grow Open Omnia to the point that it is nationally recognised and for the programme to help larger numbers of students,” said Gordon. He was shortlisted for 198 entries to emerge as the first runner-up in the 2017 Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business Competition. The young innovator took home a R50 000 marketing voucher to help market his innovation.

Spearheaded by Ithala Development Finance Corporation, Inkunz’isematholeni attracts youth with innovative and sustainable business concepts and provides incubation and start-up in their journey to becoming seasoned entrepreneurs.

When the competition knocked on the doors of his university, he simply had to participate. The 25-year-old is eagerly awaiting his final year academic results. “I was most intrigued by the programme and I remember thinking to myself that this is exactly what I have been waiting for,” said Gordon.

Amongst others, Gordon counts Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and world’s largest online retailer, as his biggest inspiration.

When asked if he thinks there is enough support for young and aspiring entrepreneurs such as himself in South Africa, Gordon enthusiastically responded: “Definitely, but as young people we expect things to happen instantly. However, things take time and we just need to keep working while waiting for that big break.

“I am honoured and grateful to Ithala for believing in my invention and for the financial assistance. I am excited about what the future holds for Open Omnia.

“In the past, I have heard a lot about how the provincial development agency has helped aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and I am grateful to be given an opportunity to work with them,” added Gordon.

Over the past three years, Ithala has disbursed R878 600 000 to nearly 700 businesses, resulting in over 8 000 jobs being created. Of these, 28% are women-owned businesses and young people comprise nearly 40% of those on Ithala’s loan book.