Three Irish students have won the top prize at the 2020 Technovation World Summit, beating 1,500 other entries from across 62 countries worldwide.

The three girls – Rachael Akano (16), Margaret Akano (17) and Joy Njekwe (17), under the mentorship of Evelyn Nomoyo, CEO and Founder of Phase Innovate, developed Memory Haven, an app which uses music to comfort those suffering from dementia. Alerts, health checks and voice recognition software accompany and support its musical capabilities.

The Technovation World Summit is a global competition which tasks participants with looking at environmental and social problems and how they can be solved using technology, particularly using phone applications.

Nomayo is a graduate of UCD School of Computer Science and a current PhD research fellow in Trinity College Dublin. In 2018, she founded Phase Innovate, a non-for-profit organisation dedicated to bridging the gender and race gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in Ireland.

“Phase Innovative seeks to change the narrative that technology is a boy’s club that is not for girls” she told The College Tribune. She sought to encourage more girls into the technology scene, particularly people of colour who are extremely underrepresented in the field.

Having placed in the semi-finals of the Summit last year, the team was “ecstatic and overjoyed” when they heard they qualified for the finals, the only European Union team that had done so. Nomayo recounted to show how happy she was that the “12 weeks of training” and “many sleepless nights pouring hours and hours into the design” had been recognised and awarded.

Nomayo told The Tribune that she was overjoyed to be awarded the win, and that she hopes that the win has the power to get more girls interested in the area. The process, she says, is very rewarding. “The girls are taught how to pitch, they develop design and technology skills, they learn to develop business plans, and their confidence massively grows.” Following the win, the group have had many large technology companies reach out to work with them.

The group are now working with Microsoft, redesigning the app with “new, more robust software” to enhance its capabilities. The app is set to launch officially on the Google App Store in October.

Oisín Magfhógartaigh – Reporter