Dr. Rita Orji

Faculty of Computer Science

Dalhousie University.

Halifax, Canada

Dr. Rita Orji is a Computer Science Professor at Dalhousie University, Canada. Her research areas include Human-Computer Interaction, Persuasive Technology, and Games for Change. She is particularly interested in investigating user-centered approaches to designing technological interventions to motivate people to improve a wide range health and wellness behaviours, including sexual and other health risk behaviours, healthy eating, physical activity, and smoking cessations. Dr. Orji has a strong interest in mhealth and digital health optimization in African nations. She is well-known for her work in the area of Personalizing Persuasive Technologies to make them appropriate for the target audience. She has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers in reputable venues. Her work has won several prestigious awards and funding, including Canadian Government Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant, Banting Fellowship, NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, Vanier Scholarship, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Government of Turkey funding, and best paper awards. Recently, she was recognized as one of the Top 150 Canadian Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and also won a digital leadership award as a Women Leader in Digital Economy for her work in advancing technology both in Canada and in her native country of Nigeria. Dr. Orji has been interviewed and featured in major media, including Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), StarPhoenix on account of her work. She gave an invited talk to the Canadian Parliament. Dr. Orji is also passionate about inspiring the next generation of female tech. leaders; promoting research excellence; and equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM.

Keynote Abstract

Advances in technology offer many opportunities to strategically design interactive systems that aid and motivate people toward behaviours and actions that are beneficial for them and their communities. Avoiding behaviors that pose health risks and promoting a healthy lifestyle can be facilitated by Persuasive Technologies (PTs). PTs are interactive systems designed to motivate desired behavior and attitude change. It is well-established that PT interventions are effective tools for promoting health and wellness. In this keynote presentation, I will share ways of designing PT interventions to promote health and wellness among target populations. First, I will show ways that PT interventions can be tailored to specific populations, individuals, or health conditions in order to increase their effectiveness at achieving desired outcomes such as increased utilization, adherence, motivation, and improved health. I will then provide some examples to show that tailored PT interventions are more effective than the one-size-fits-all approach across various health behaviour contexts (e.g., promoting healthy eating, physical activity, discouraging risky sexual behaviour) and cultural groups (e.g., people from Western culture and people from Africa).


Admire Mare

Department of communication

Faculty of Human Sciences

Namibia University of Science and Technology

Windhoek, Namibia

ADMIRE MARE (PhD.), is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Communication, Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Namibia. He holds a PhD and Masters of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies from the department of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. Mare also holds a Master’s of Science in Sociology and Social Anthropology and a BSc Honours in Sociology from the University of Zimbabwe. He also holds a diploma in mass communication from Harare Polytechnic’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. His PhD Thesis entitled: Facebook, Youth and Political Participation/Action: A comparative study of Zimbabwe and South Africa explored the various ways politically engaged youths in both countries appropriate and domesticate social media for political purposes. He has received research grants from the African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council, IT4Change in Bangalore, CODESRIA, and OSSREA. His research focuses on the intersection between technology and society. He has done work focusing on the relationship between digital media and journalism, politics, digital campaigns in hybrid electoral systems, digital literacy and internet freedom. He has published in several international, regional and local refereed journals as well as book chapters. He is currently working on book project provisionally titled: Liquid Activism: Digital Media and Youth Mobilization in Zimbabwe and South Africa. He is also guest-editing with colleagues two special issues on Fake News, Bots and Cyber-propaganda in Africa (2019) for the African Journalism Studies and Journal of Communication.

Keynote Abstract

 In our digitally mediated world of today, how are communities constructed and imagined? Have are communities disrupted, deconstructed and decentred by the unpredictable human computer interaction? How do these communities reproduce and reinvent social and political inequalities? How do communities of the connected and disconnected relate to each other in contemporary Africa? The term community has become axiomatic in the field of social and human sciences with multiple meanings and forms. In some quarters, it has been theorized as an object, as an action, an activity and a process. The complex interaction between humans and computers (and other digital technologies in general) has given birth to various types of self-organizing communities, computer-mediated social movements, communities of practice and interpretive communities. It is unsurprising to talk about secret, public and private groups (which are essentially communities) in the digital age. Like all forms of communities, virtual spaces have given rise to moral panics around fake news, cyber-misogyny, misinformation, online harassment, radicalization and recruitment of terrorists, cyber-crimes and revenge porn. Some of the ‘thriving communities’ of practice have led to optimistic accounts about the role of digital technologies in liberating people from the snares of authoritarianism and even the taken-for-granted belief in the democratization of journalism (through the entrance of citizen journalists into the profession). This keynote presentation unpacks the fluid and ever-changing concept of community from a range of angles including theoretical, methodological and empirical. Based on my mixed-method research experiences from East and Southern Africa, I will explore and analyze some of the self-organizing communities, which are at the forefront of advancing social, political and cultural struggles. My current research on ride sharing applications in South Africa and the emergent self-organizing groups focusing on collective bargaining and unionization will be highlighted.

This keynote will also problematize the notion of ‘thriving communities’ and also attempt to open new vistas for research in Africa and beyond, which critically examines the unintended consequences of the human computer interaction matrix. It will reflect on various ways researchers can practically research on virtual communities without necessarily privileging either of the two elephants (big data or thick data) in the room. Beyond focusing on communities, which are thriving, this paper calls on researchers to look beyond the surface in order to make sense of disrupted communities in the digital age.