PhD candidate receives the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

PhD student in the Department of Computing and Information Systems, Kagonya Awori has been awarded the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for her work in encouraging women to pursue computer engineering.

Kagonya’s Experience

Kagonya became heavily involved in empowering women to use technology after completing her Masters study, when she returned to her home country, Kenya, as a mentor. “I conducted regular trainings and talks about User-Centred Design, in the hope that students would be inspired to build problem solving technologies within their communities.” By founding a local chapter of ACM SIGCHI, the leading academic society for Human-Computer Interaction, Kagonya was able to extend her work and encourage local students to design useful, usable and relevant technologies. Despite what Kagonya has already achieved, she is determined to extend her commitment to women in computer sciences and human computer interaction.

“My passion for user-centred research and design has motivated me to encourage more women to pursue computer engineering.”

Kagonya’s Research

Kagonya is driven to empower women in rural areas and design technologies they can use in their daily lives. Through her PhD with the Interaction Design Lab in the Department of Computing and Information Systems, she is working to design ICTs that support the performance of knowledge. “I plan to do my PhD research work back in Kenya with a small indigenous community, and design technologies with them to help nurture their rich knowledge and culture,” says Kagonya.

“I still feel I can do more. I can reach more women of diverse backgrounds and empower them to use technology. That is one of the reasons I am currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Engineering here at the University of Melbourne. Ultimately, I believe that technology does not drive development. People do. And in many societies like Kenya, the people who drive development are women. Through my PhD, I intend to work with women and support them toward technological development that will benefit both men and women.”

 The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship recognises female students from the Asia Pacific region who are undertaking study in computer science and engineering, and are passionate about increasing the involvement of women in computer science. Awarded in the memory of Anita Borg, who proposed the “50/50 by 2020” initiative, the scholarship enhances the effort to increase the percentage the women among graduates earning computing degrees to 50% by the year 2020. It aims to encourage women to excel in computing and technology, and become active role models and leaders in this field.

“I am grateful to be have been chosen to be part of a collective of highly motivated women who are keen to use technology to better the society.”

“It is a joy because the Scholarship does not only benefit me, but it also highlights the great work that goes on at the University of Melbourne.”

Kagonya’s supervisor, Associate Professor Frank Vetere, congratulated the PhD candidate on her success.

“Kagonya has been selected from many applications across the Asia/Pacific region. This is a great honour and a wonderful achievement.”

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