Rita Orji is a Nigerian computer scientist and human-computer interaction researcher. She is an assistant professor of computer science at Dalhousie University in Canada. She works on human–computer interaction and how technological interventions can impact health and wellbeing. She has awards from Nigerian and Canadian organisations. She has addressed a United Nations panel about the status of women and at the Parliament of Canada.
Early life and education
Orji grew up in Enugu State Nigeria, where she did not have access to a computer. At the age of 13, she entered the Nigerian team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. Orji studied computer science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, graduating top of her class. In 2002 she launched Education for Women and the Less Privileged in Nigeria, a nonprofit organisation which provides mentorship and scholarships for women in education. She joined a master's program at Middle East Technical University, where she was the only black student. She completed her master's in 2009 and moved to Canada as a graduate student.
In 2012, she presented at the Parliament of Canada, where she spoke about health promotion and disease prevention. She was awarded a Vanier scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Orji earned her Ph.D. at 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 effect behavioural change.
Orji joined the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo. She is interested in gamification and how to design technologies that can promote health and wellness. Orji joined the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University as a Banting Fellow in July 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 analysed 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 and engagement
Orji 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. 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
- 2013 University of Saskatchewan Research Excellence in Science Award
- 2017 Enugu State Award of Excellence in Recognition of 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