Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo, and Vivian Okoye, who call themselves Team Save-A-Soul learned how to build their phone app from scratch, in hopes that it will help address widespread sales of counterfeit drugs in Nigerian.
These teenager Girls won a major tech innovation award in California for their app that spots fake drugs — further dispelling the myth that girls are weak at science and technology.
Nigeria has been fighting against an overwhelming war on counterfeit drugs for decades with an alarming 41% fake and 70% unregistered pharmaceutical companies; according to a study by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in 2002.
15-year-old Osita said the motivation for her to join the group comes from her brother’s death as a result of fake drugs administered to him after he was involved in an accident.
“With this app, we will relieve the burden so I feel very excited,” Osita said. She hopes to become a pharmacist one day.
Team Save-A-Soul beat teams from the United States, Turkey, Uzbekistan and China to walk away with the coveted junior gold award at the Technovation Challenge on August 9. Their app was one of more than 2 000 apps submitted.
With this app, users can verify the authenticity and expiration date of medication by scanning the barcode on the bottle or box using the FD-detector app.
Technovation is run by education a non-profit Organisation Iridescent and challenges girls aged 10-18 to create an app that solves problems in their communities.
Osita says that at first, her parents and the people around her did not understand her interest in technology. “Some people told me: ‘You’re a girl, why are you going into tech?’ At first, my parents didn’t understand what I was doing, but it’s only recently that they see what I’m doing. They are very, very proud.”
Uchenna Ugwu who introduced the girls to computers and coding through her organization Edufun Technik is the group’s mentor and infleuncer. Her Organization teaches science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects to underprivileged children in Anambra state, Nigeria.
According to Ugwu, Edufun Technik has taught about 4 800 school children since 2014 — with the majority being young girls — as a means of closing the wide gender gap in STEM education.
Before the competition, the girls were anxious about participating in the competition alongside groups that always had access to technology while they only started using computers five months ago.
Ugwu said she reassured the girls by telling them “it’s not about how long ago you started, but how well you do.
“They were not the most talented in the coding class but they were the most determined. They stuck with the classes when a lot of their peers dropped out.”
Moving forward from the competition, the girls will partner with NAFDAC to create a database of certified pharmaceutical products.
Uchenna Ugwu hopes that this win will encourage other young girls to find creative solutions to the problems their countries are faced with and not be intimidated by STEM subjects and people saying girls are not capable.