AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
THREE Nigerian-Irish teenagers won an international prize after developing an app, Memory Haven, to help people suffering from dementia. The female developers said they did it all by themselves.
“We are young, ambitious girls starting small but aiming very high,” said 17-year-old Margaret Akano, 16-year-old Rachael Akano and 17-year-old Joy Njekwe.
The teenagers from the eastern Irish town of Drogheda won the Grand Prize in the Technovation Girls Senior Division.
They came first in a competition regrouping 5,400 students from 62 countries. The students created more than 1,500 mobile apps addressing problems ranging from Covid-19 to climate change.
Magaret Akano, project manager, said that they were inspired to create Memory Haven following the death of the mother of their project mentor, Evelyn Nomayo. She is also the founder of Phase Innovate, an organisation that trains and mentors underrepresented minorities and women in tech.
“We then realised the severity of the problem. Globally, 50 million people suffer from dementia and this number increases by 10 million each year,” said the 17-year-old medical school student.
“We found that 55,000 people in Ireland [only] are living with dementia impacting over 500 thousand families.”
Memory Haven can be used by both patients, caregivers, friends and families. Its six features target three problems faced by those with dementia: memory loss as well as difficulty with recognition and speech.
A “photo wallet” enable users to “upload, share and receive photos”.
“Through research we discovered that music memories remain undamaged by dementia. So, we created a playlist features,” 17-year-old sales manager Joy Njekwe explained.
Another feature includes face and voice recognition “to allow users to identify their friends and family”.
“We also created a memory game feature to allow users to put their cognitive abilities to the test,” she added.
A reminder feature enables users to remember the time for certain tasks, like taking medication.
The three teenagers aim to go global with the app, Memory Haven. But will first start with care homes in Ireland before targeting United Kingdom, Europe and the Americas. Meanwhile, they are examining how to offer the app in various languages.
They are currently discussing partnership with an organisation in the USA.
The young developers would like to add more features to the app “like remote monitoring”.
“This will allow families to remotely keep an eye on their loved ones living in care homes,” said financial manager Rachael Akiano.
They would also like to personalise the existing memory games.
“We would like to give users the opportunity to put the pictures they want in the app for the memory games,” she declared.
The teenagers would also like to add a QR code reader to remind users how use some equipments. For example, they may scan the QR code on a washing machine if they forgot how to load it.
The three young developers are looking for investment and have laid out a carefully thought marketing strategy as well as a financial plan with a 5-year profit projection.
Rachael Akano told RTE’s Aine Kerr that they intend to apply to funding through one of Google’s programmes.
Their aim, the Nigeria-Irish girls outlined, is to “support and promote the independence of people with dementia and empower their family using assisted technology”.