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  Rita Orji is a Nigerian-Canadian Computer Science Professor, a Canada Research Chair in Persuasive Technology, and the Director of the Persuasive Computing Lab at Dalhousie University in Canada. A native of Enugu State, Nigeria and of Igbo extraction. Rita was born and raised by parents (Mr. and Mrs. Maria and Okonkwo Orji) who never attended school, in the remote town of Owelli.
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As one of 9 siblings, her parents supported the family through their peasant farming. Rita did not have access to a computer growing up, she was admitted to study Computer Science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University without having used a computer for the first time. Nevertheless, she graduated on top of her class with First Class Honours.  Rita graduated as a top student from all her studies with First Class Honours grades, a rare feat that attracted numerous awards and scholarships. During her secondary education, she entered the Nigerian team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. In 2002, she launched Education for Women and the Less Privileged in Nigeria, a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship and scholarships for women in education. Rita Orji joined a master’s program at Middle East Technical University, where she was the only African student. She completed her master’s in 2009 and moved to Canada as a graduate student. Her work is in the area of human-computer interaction with a major focus on designing interactive systems to achieve various health and well-being objectives. She has won over 70 awards and recognitions from both national and international organizations. She has addressed a United Nations panel about the status of women at the Parliament of Canada. Career Rita Orji joined the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo as a Banting Fellow in 2016. She is interested in persuasive technology and how to design technologies that can promote health and wellness and technologies for promoting social and public goods.  Rita Orji joined the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University as an Assistant Professor in 2017. She designs interactive systems and persuasive technologies, particularly to benefit under-served populations. She has studied how culture and age influence the efficacy of persuasive technologies. She analyzed how reward, competition, social comparison and social learning differ between men and women in collectivist and individualist cultures, finding that in collectivist cultures men are more susceptible to reward and competition. Advocacy Rita is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) diversity ambassador, working towards increased participation of women and minorities in computing through dedicated work and using herself as a practical example. She is passionate about youth empowerment and women’s access to education. She was honoured by hEr VOLUTION as one of the top 150 women scientists in Canada.
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In 2012, she presented at the Parliament of Canada, where she spoke about health promotion and disease prevention. Rita Orji was awarded a Vanier Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Orji earned her Ph.D. at the University of Saskatchewan in 2014. She was the first woman from her town of 50,000 people to earn a Ph.D. She joined McGill University as a postdoctoral fellow, where she worked on technological interventions that can affect behavioural change. She attended the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. She spoke at the 2018 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) Panel: It Is Up to Me. Awards and honours Amongst several honours and awards, Rita has received at least these:
  • 2021 Top 100 Canada’s Most Powerful Women 
  • 2021 Top 100 Leading Nigerian Women 
  • 2021 Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards
  • 2021 Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Awards 
  • 2020 Canada Research Chair in Persuasive Technology.
  • 2020 Inducted into the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.
  • 2019 Dalhousie University President’s Research Excellence Award.
  • 2019 International Society for Research on Internet Interventions Rising Star Award.
  • 2018 Women Leaders in the Digital Economy Award, Digital Nova Scotia.
  • 2017 Enugu State Award of Excellence in Recognition of Scholarly Achievement and Contributions to Advancement of Education
  • 2017 Nnamdi Azikiwe University Award of Excellence in Recognition of Contribution for the Advancement of Knowledge in Computer Science.
  • 2017 Top 150 Canadian Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
  • 2013 University of Saskatchewan Research Excellence in Science Award
References Featured image source: iAfricaVoices
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This article was first published on 22nd March 2022 and updated on March 25th, 2022 at 12:14 pm


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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