Families and caregivers of patients suffering from dementia can now relax as an App created by Nigerian-Irish teenage girls will be launched later this month. The award-winning App will be a great source of assistance to people living with this condition.
Contrary to the belief of several people that Apps such as this can only be made by professional software developers in a technology company (Mostly males), the dementia App was developed by three Nigerian-Irish three teenage girls.
The three teenagers emerged as winners of Technovation Girls, an international competition that encourages young women to develop Apps that can provide a solution to certain problems in the Community. The competition is hosted annually by Techovation, a non-profit organization that supports girls to become leaders in the aspect of technology.
The Beginning of Dementia App developed by Nigerian-Irish Girls:
The founder of Phase innovative, an organization that mentors and trains underrepresented minorities and women in tech, who is also an Afro-Irish developer, Evelyn Nomayo, mentored the young girls. Nomayo shared the story of her mother, who experienced dementia, with the girls and this served as a source of motivation to them. This resulted in the creation of the App that assists patients living with this condition. The challenge, which lasted for 12 weeks, resulted in Memory Haven, which can be considered as the best as it defeated more than 1,500 submissions from 62 countries.
Features of Dementia App that was developed by Nigerian-Irish teenage girls:
The dementia App can be used by caregivers and patients. The features of this App targets the three major problems encountered by demetia patients; difficulty with recognition and speech, and memory loss. For instance, the reminder feature alerts the patient and caregiver when it’s time for medication, while photo albums enable users to flip through photos identifying the person in the image.
NPR zoomed with the Memory Haven last week to learn about the app, the problems they’ve encountered as women in tech and what international victory felt like.
When Evelyn Nemayo was asked to share the story of what inspired the App, she attributed it to her mother. “My mom started having dementia problems three to four years ago. The first time I realized something was wrong was when she started hallucinating. She lived in America, but she’d be imagining that she was in Nigeria. One time [when I was visiting her] I gave her something to sew, and I could see the pain in her eyes because she forgot how to. She used to be a seamstress, but she couldn’t do it anymore. So some of my experiences that I had with her, the team translated into technology to help others. She passed away earlier this year.” She said.
Rachael Akano, aged 16, said the App has six features; photo albums, music, outreach, face and voice recognition, memory games and reminders. The memory game allows [patient and caregivers] to put their cognitive ability to the test while promoting memory retention in a fun way and improving focus and speed. The face and voice recognition feature makes it easy for users to identify their friends and family. Then research suggests that musical memories are the least affected by dementia, so a music feature was created for personal playlists.
Margaret Akano, was the project manager, Racheal was the financial manager, and Joy Njekwe was the sales manager.
When Evelyn was asked to give reasons for mentoring the team, she said she is currently doing a Ph.D. [in computer science and statistics]. During the process, she found that most of the time, she discovered that she was either the only girl in class or the only black person or person of color. “Whether I’m working or being educated, it’s so obvious that there’s a shortage of women in this space. So I just felt it: There was a need to bring more girls and people of color into that space.”
Evelyn said the only prejudice she had was from her male counterparts who underestimated her ability and doubted her intelligence because she was a woman.
Rachael also shared her experience about the prejudice. She said, “I think the most negative reaction we received was when the Irish Times announced that we made it to the finals [on Twitter].
We got amazing comments, but the negative ones just naturally stick with you. People said we weren’t Irish and that we didn’t deserve to represent the country. They put a monkey face [to represent a black girl’s face]. Just crazy, crazy oceans of racism for absolutely no reason.”
When Rachael was asked about how she felt, she thinks the most surprising part was that their parents weren’t really surprised. “I remember running to my parents and saying, “Mom, dad: Look what they are saying about us.” And my dad said, “Guess you better get used to it.”
Finally, the teenagers shared their career goals. Margaret said she is currently in medical school and hope to specialize in precision medicine, which deals with how technology can help people in the medical world.
Rachael said she instantly fell in love with the business aspect of the competition.”I think I’m definitely going to go into international business and IT.”
Joy said she is equivalent to a senior in high school and am getting ready for college. “Right now, I’m looking at computer science and engineering or some sort of science field because that’s what excites me.”
When Racheal was asked about how she felt about the success of the App, she said, “We went to our mentor’s house to watch the live announcements. I can’t even explain that moment. It was insane. There’s a video going around Ireland of our reaction actually.”
The teenage girls have done something remarkable with their innovation and have received worldwide recognition for that.