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Girls Can Create Social Change By Building Apps With Technovation Program

Nishita Belur, 16, is an ambassador for the Technovation Program, an initiative that fosters young female entrepreneurs with the motto “Girls for a change.”

Belur, a Santa Clara resident, led an informational meeting at Central Park Library to recruit middle school and high school girls to serve on teams in this year’s program. Technovation participants will build apps, which are software applications that can run on electronic devices. According to Technovation’s website, since 2009, 10,000 girls from over 78 countries have participated in this program.

“The Technovation Program is a global entrepreneurship program that encourages girls around the world to participate in app development,” Belur said. “The program gives them all the tools necessary to start a tech start-up of their own.”

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According to Belur, the program comprises of two parts.

“The first part of the program is that there is a curriculum for the girls who want to develop apps,” Belur said. “There is an extensive online curriculum that teaches girls how to develop an app and build a business plan for marketing the app. It also teaches them how to make a pitch video and market their app to the people who might be interested in it. The curriculum gives them all the tools they need to create a start up of their own.

“The second part of the program is a competition,” Belur continued. “After the girls submit their pitches, their business plans and apps online to Technovation, there are about 12 finalist teams chosen from around the world in the middle school and high school division. They all come down to San Francisco for the World Pitch event in August. They pitch their idea to a panel on the tech work force. One team from the middle school division and one team from the high school division win $15,000 each. They are supposed to use this funding to make their app a reality. We try to recruit underprivileged girls to participate in this so we can break down socioeconomic barriers and recruit more women into the tech workforce.”

Girls don’t have to know how to code or build an app to enter the Technovation Program.

“Technovation offers a super helpful curriculum that uses a tool called App Inventor 2,” Belur said. “This tool allows you to connect different blocks together on the screen so you can program what the blocks should do. You’re not typing lines of code. You’re connecting blocks together so they can perform a function.”

Belur explained the functions of two apps that she constructed with Technovation.

“Last year, I developed an app called ‘Stop hate! Advocate,’” Belur said. “Sometimes victims don’t know how to report hate crimes. What my app does is to allow people to anonymously report hate crimes to the police and to view the hate crime laws in their state…Another app I made is called ‘Doctor Who.’ That one helps rural patients in underdeveloped countries get better access to healthcare through virtual e-appointments with doctors and also through better organizations of mobile hospitals.”

Belur’s apps are currently available on Google Play.

“Technovation really encourages girls to solve community problems with app development,” Belur said. “This program brings social justice together with technology.”

This year’s app and application submission deadline for Technovation is on April 23.  According to Technovation’s website, applicants must be between ages 10 to 18 as of Aug. 1 and identify as female to participate. Visit www.technovationchallenge.org for more information.

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