Meet the Nigerian-Irish women helping dementia patients through tech

  • Evelyn Nomayo is a Nigerian-Irish full-stack web developer that is helping young Irish girls get to the world finals of innovative tech competitions through her non-profit organisation.

    Evelyn founded Phase Innovate in May 2018, with the aim of bridging the gender and race gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers in Ireland.

    Based in Drogheda Co Louth, she liaises with local secondary schools there, delivering talks to transition year students in the hopes of finding new female mentees to help guide.

    With an academic background in economics and statistics from Nigeria, Evelyn moved to Ireland in 2003 and upskilled herself in IT.

    She is now a PhD research fellow in Trinity College Dublin, following two Master’s degrees in computer science from University College Dublin and web technology from National College Ireland.

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    Evelyn said: “My passion is to support women from underrepresented communities in tech. Most of my educational background in Ireland is in the area of IT, and most of the time I would be the only one in the classroom or in work that is black and also female. That’s my inspiration for Phase Innovate.”

    Asserting herself as a tech evangelist, Evelyn entered six teams of adolescent girls into ‘2020 Technovation Girls’, an annual competition that allows young women to tackle community issues through technology.

    Four of her six squads made it to the semi-finals, with a group of three Nigerian-Irish girls (Rachael Akano (16), Margaret Akano (17) and Joy Njekwe (17)) reaching the senior division finals for their Memory Haven app.  

    The app is designed to support dementia patients speak, cope with memory losses and recognise friends and family.

    There are over 500,000 people in Ireland whose families have been affected by dementia, and Evelyn’s own loss of a family member through Alzheimer’s was a driving force for the app’s creation.

    App users can choose to register as a dementia patient, caregiver, relative or a doctor. Doctors must share information about where they are practising and once logged in, they can view and access patient details, chat with patients or schedule appointments.

    Those that register as dementia patients can explore various app features, including photo slideshows, picture uploads, and Reminder Alerts, which allows them to set tasks for the day along with an alarm. The Memory Game feature further lets users put their memory to test and helps improve cognitive abilities.

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    The team said it was also influenced by research which suggests music can comfort people with dementia because musical memories are relatively undamaged by the disease, so a music playlist has been incorporated into the app too.

    Putting Ireland on the world stage

    From 13 – 14 August, Evelyn’s Technovation Girls represented Ireland on the world stage of the contest’s virtual finals, being the only EU country to qualify in the senior category this year.

    Overall, the 2020 competition cohort saw 5,400 students from 62 countries create more than 1,500 apps collectively to address modern real-world problems.

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    Future development plans for Memory Haven include a personalised memory game for each individual patient and adding a fingerprint and face recognition feature for those that may forget their password. The team also wants to make the app available in an array of different languages, to reach as many people worldwide as possible.

    With new sponsorship support from Microsoft, the women hope to launch the app officially across Europe and the US soon.

    Evelyn said: “In the near future a lot of social problems will be resolved using technology. That’s my goal – using an app to solve social problems.”

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    Sources: Technovation, The Irish Times

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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