This summer Akamai hosted Girls Who Code for its fourth year in a row. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science. This is a spotlight article on one of the Girls Who Code participants, Aruzhan Koshkarova. Aruzhan, along with her teammates, won the Technovation Challenge last year for the app, QamCare. QamCare is an app that allows users to send their location to family and friends while they are traveling alone and alert the authorities if an SOS/distress signal is sent with the location. This app was created because of an issue Aruzhan and her teammates saw in Kazakhstan.
Here is a brief interview with Aruzhan:
Can you give me your pitch of QamCare? And further background on why you created this particular app?
"In Kazakhstan, nine people go missing every day. Fifteen-hundred people go missing every year. For [the] last 25 years, 10,000 people have been lost. In the rural side of the country, a girl can be kidnapped to get married to a man. With this app, location is always known, which is why it was created. QamCare is to bring peace of mind to the parents."
"In February and March 2017, my team talked about problems that we could solve, such as helping people in poverty. Our team was formed in January 2017. I was one of the coders, but I had to learn from the beginning. I was also responsible for the pitch, idea, and coding. Another girl on my team was a coder, another girl was involved with design, and then another girl was business/marketing. We also had a mentor help us create a piece of hardware to work with app as a button."
"Our goal was not to win but to actually launch it on the app store and make it real."
How has your app QamCare been doing? Can you give us an update?
"We launched the app in Kazakhstan in April 2018. I have friends all over the world who told me the app is working in India, Japan, and the United States. We are working on fixing bugs next and coming up with another project."
"The first computer science high school in my country was only open to boys, but after my team won Technovation Challenge, the school wanted girls to enroll as well."
What made you want to participate/get involved with Girls Who Code?
"My mother encouraged me to apply to Girls Who Code the summer before I did Technovation Challenge, but I did not get in. After I took part in Technovation Challenge and applied [to Girls Who Code] again, I got in. I thought [Girls Who Code] was real cool and everyone was very encouraging even when someone made a mistake."
What are you currently working on this summer with GWC or outside of GWC?
"A website with games that people need to get coins to play. The proceeds from that would go towards paying for pads for homeless women who do not have access."
How do you see yourself in 5-10 years/future plans?
"I'm interested in AI. I want to pursue computer science and I would like to be an AI engineer or in machine learning."
Do you have advice for other girls your age or younger for getting involved in technology?
"If you want to change the world you live in using technology, start from your own city, school or community. Small changes are also changes! If you think about the problems your community is facing today, and if you are looking for the solutions - then you are already half way to success, because the most important step is to start and you will find people who will have the same vision and will support you (as did my team)!
As any other person I faced challenges that could have stopped me from reaching my goals (both creating the application and personal life), however I found courage and will in myself to grow from these challenges. As one person said: "Know (your) challenges - Know (your success)." I want to tell everyone that there would be times when you'd want to quit or give up, but find power and set even bigger dreams!"