Dr Rita Orji is a Nigerian-Canadian Computer Science Professor and the first Nigerian woman in the Canada Research Chair in Persuasive Technology at Dalhousie University in Canada. Her work is in the area of human–computer interaction with a major focus on designing interactive systems to achieve various health and wellbeing objectives and also recognized as one of the 60 Outstanding African #WomenInSTEM .
She has won over 50 awards and recognitions from both national and international organizations. She has addressed a United Nations panel about the status of women and at the Parliament of Canada.
Dr Rita, interests is in in persuasive technology 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 aids in designs of 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.
Her research topics include but are not limited to
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Persuasive Technology
- Behaviour Change Systems
- Games for Change
- Personalized and Adaptive Systems
- Human-Computer Interaction for Health
- Human-Computer Interaction for Development
Persuasive technology is broadly defined as technology that is designed to change attitudes or behaviours of the users through persuasion and social influence, but not necessarily through coercion. Such technologies are regularly used in sales, diplomacy, politics, religion, military training, public health, and management, and may potentially be used in any area of human-human or human-computer interaction. Most self-identified persuasive technology research focuses on interactive, computational technologies, including desktop computers, Internet services, video games, and mobile devices, but this incorporates and builds on the results, theories, and methods of experimental psychology, rhetoric, and human-computer interaction. The design of persuasive technologies can be seen as a particular case of design with intent.
“I investigated how we can design interactive systems (mobile applications, social media applications, games) to help people to adopt behaviours and actions that are beneficial to them and their community,” said Orji, whose research has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.
Dr Orji has a passion for working with graduate and undergraduate students to continue her research and expand it to include other areas of persuasive computing for social and public good, such as risky behaviours, mental health, safety and security, and environmental protection. Along with her research, Orji has been working hard to change the industry she is a part of.
“I want to see a time where we don’t have this thing called visible minority,” said Orji. “I want to be able to serve as a role model to motivate other youths to pursue their dreams irrespective of their background. Your colour does not matter, your gender does not matter. You can actually achieve anything you set your mind on.”
Orji hopes her work will make an impact on policy decision on a national and global scale. She’s been working on this by speaking at places like the United Nations and the Canadian Parliament to get her message and her story out to the public.
“I’m not only a woman and a computer scientist, I am a woman of colour,” she said. “I came from Africa, born and raised by a parent who had no formal education and survived on a very tight budget. So, I broke a lot of barriers and fought a lot of battles to get to where I am. I tell people nothing is impossible; you can really do whatever you want to do. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not possible. I am evidence that nothing is impossible.”
“Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not possible. I am evidence that nothing is impossible.” –
Dr. Rita Orji (PhD)