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“Technovation Challenges Armenia-2018”: Encouraging the girl newcomers to new victories

This week, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Yerevan office hosted the launch of the “Technovation Challenge Armenia 2018” event. The organizers hope that this year’s Global Technology Challenge 2017 victory of the “One Step-ahead” team of girls from the Karbi community of Aragatsotn region will encourage the students of other Armenian schools.


Technovation Challenges/Technology Entrepreneurship is the world’s largest competition among 10 to 18 year-old students. The mission of the project is to inspire and encourage young women so that they can become leaders and innovators through technology and entrepreneurship to solve problems in their communities. More than 11,000 girls and 3,000 teams from 103 countries have participated in the Technovation Challenge International Initiative this year. The girls from the Karbi community, “One Step-ahead”, won the competition in the Global Technovation Challenge competition in San Francisco, where they won the People’s Choice Award for the Armenian Sign Language (“Armenian Sign Language”) mobile app.


 How the Karbi village students captured the Silicon Valley


The schoolchildren of the Vahan Tekeyan secondary school in the village of Karbi had not even dreamed of visiting the Silicon Valley and receiving a prize from Google’s CEO, but what seemed to be impossible became a reality for girls.  Girls from the Armenian little village appeared in the Silicon Valley due to their unique idea, an indefinable Armenian gesture language mobile app. “This idea was born very casually when the nephew of one of our friends visited our school. We naturally saw a new person, tried to get acquainted, chatted with her, but it turned out that the girl had hearing problems. Then the idea emerged, creating an app that will help people learn sign language”, said one of the girls in the” One Step Ahead”group.


This and no less interesting other 43 projects were presented this year within the framework of the Technovation Challenge Armenia 2017 initiative and the winner   “One Step-ahead” team left for San Francisco to present Armenia among the world’s best ideas. The girls returned from the Silicon Valley with the title of “People’s Choice” and $ 10,000 for improving the app.


 “I am convinced that this victory will not be the only one, but the first one in a very long run”

 This was the first year when Armenia was participating in the contest. The initiative belonged to the “Women and Information Society” NGO. The representative of the organization Ani Manukyan confesses that the initiative was carried out exclusively thanks to love and devotion, with a zero budget.


“Women’s involvement in the IT sector is very important not only because women are more than half of the society, but also the fact that women and girls really have a huge potential that is unfortunately not used today”, – says Ani Manukyan and adds: “The IT sector is one of the priorities of the Armenian government and one of the pillars of our country’s economy. In this case, not using this brilliant resource of our women and girls is a great mistake. I am convinced that this victory will not be the only one, but the first one in the long run”.


The Technovation Challenge is a 12-week educational program, consisting of 4 segments, coding, business, marketing, and presenting the ultimate product. To participate in the program, each school can be represented by a 3-5 team headed by a mentor. Teams are divided into two groups: junior and senior. After completing an online education program, teams must decide what social issues they want to pursue and what innovative technology can be settled. The competition consists of two stages: regional-national and international. 44 school teams were registered to participate in the Armenian stage, of which 22 received the opportunity to participate in the last round.


“It is noteworthy that provincial school teams have been recognized as winners both in the junior and senior teams. Besides, when we were studying the history of the contest, we found out that the only one international participant from the South Caucasus, participating in this competition, was from Georgia. Armenia is unique in this respect in the region”, – says Ani Manukyan.


 “Encouragement of women in the IT sector will greatly contribute to its development”


This story of success has become a reality thanks to its supporters. “Women and the Information Society” NGO first introduced the idea to the National Institute of Education and received immediate support. The initiative was also supported by AABA Armenia and EU-funded Civil Society Bridge, UN Armenia Office and several other organizations.


“There is nothing more pleasant than talking about victory, especially when you realize that you have been a participant in this victory and success. We were very happy and proud to support this initiative, which has two very important features. First, it is intended exclusively for girls, secondly, brings IT to innovation. This gives the opportunity to encourage advancement of women and girls from the first steps in the field of IT starting at school, “said dr. Yervand Zoryan, President of Synopsys Armenia, a member of the AGBU Central Board, and Chief Technology Officer of Synopsys Corporation. He was recognized as the first good will ambassador of technovation initiative.


 Dr. Zoryan is convinced that there is a need to expand the initiative, not to involve 44 school teams, but hundreds of people from Yerevan, regions and Artsakh. According to him, the victory of girls confirms that the encouragement of women in the IT sector will greatly contribute to its development.


It should be noted that within the framework of the “Technovation Challenge Armenia 2018” school teams will be able to register online and participate in the 12-week course from January 10, 2018. It is expected that this year the number of applicants will be ten times higher than in 2017, covering all schools in Armenia and Artsakh. This year, innovative ideas can be presented in 6 thematic groups: peace, the environment, poverty, health, equity and education.


Sona Martirosyan

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