On Saturday we had a chance to join Joy Buolamwini here at BongoHive for the latest series of our Insaka talks. Joy is an intelligent and accomplished young mind with a bubbly personality reflected by her moniker ‘Jovial Joy’. Born to Ghanain parents in Canada, Joy has spent most of her life in the United States with brief periods in Ghana and Spain. During the Insaka she shared the important events in her life that led to her interest in Computer Science and her work in Zambia including founding Zamrize.
From her childhood, Joy enjoyed the time she spent with computers her Dad would bring home from work. Although interacting for many years with technology, she first had a chance to make an impact through computers when she had the opportunity at 17 to make a website for the Ethiopian Embassy in Ivory Coast from her high school bedroom. Afterwards she realized the possibilities of making a difference in peoples lives through the use of IT and founded her first company Jovial Designs, which deals with web development, while still in high school. After high school, she furthered her education at Georgia Institute of Technology and received a Bachelors in Computer Science with highest honors. She was recently appointed to the Georgia Tech OMS CS Board as Ambassador to Africa in order to help increase the number of computer science professionals worldwide.
While at Georgia Tech she was named a Stamps Scholar, a two-year recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship, a Google Anita Borg Scholar, and recognized a Carter Center technical consultant denoted as a distinguished volunteer. At the Carter Center, she created an android-based mobile surveying solution that was used to survey nearly 40,000 people in Ethiopia to help eliminate blinding Trachoma for over 17 million people. She has presented the work internationally and the tools are now used worldwide to combat other neglected tropical diseases. Her first academic paper concerning the work was recently published. At Georgia Tech she conducted research on health informatics as well as social robotics and autism. Joy has gone on to establish businesses spanning augmented reality and educational technology (founding Chief Technology Officer of Excelegrade). In 2012 , she graduated from Flashpoint, a start-up accelerator program, as a cofounder of Techturized INC, a hair care technology company, that has launched the Madame You platform.
Joy has been in Zambia since March 2013 as a FulBright Fellow working to empower Zambian Youth to be creators of Technology. Zamrize was founded in 2013 and their motto ‘together we rise’ illustrates the organizations mission of uplifting youth in Zambia through the use of technology. Joy stresses how Zamrize became possible through the belief and support of her friends and advisers including Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code. It wasn’t just her peers who saw the potential of Zamrize, as indicated by their successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign which raised over $10,000 in 30 days. This has allowed Zamrize to expand their vision with equipment for Lusaka Lab where youth will have a fully equipped working space for mobile development projects.
During her 7 months here she collaborated with local organisations on many projects including the Asikana Network for the Womens Rights App(WRAPP), iSchool Zambia, YandApps and BongoHive for a Mobile Development Bootcamp.
A bit part of the Insaka was her demoing all the mobile applications from her work with the various organisations and the mobile development training which included a helpful cervical cancer app by Mwenya which is receiving a lot of support. One of the issues close to her was getting local developers involved in products for Zambians. The iSchool ZeduPad will be released later this year with a series of Zambian developed applications including the iHealth apps developed during the mobile development bootcamp. Joy stated during the Insaka how the story of the person developing the application is just as important as the app itself.
Although her time in Zambia has come to an end, Joy has left many great memories here after accomplishing all she had set out to achieve and Zamrize will continue to function under local management. She will be beginning her studies in September as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University studying a Masters Degree in African Studies. Combined with her knowledge in Computer Science, she hopes this degree will enable her to become an expert on Information Technology Development in Africa.
Joy, we enjoyed your time spent at BongoHive and we wish you the best in your endeavors.
Connect with Joy:
Connect with Zamrize: